GROUND ZERO, NEW YORK, NY--04-07-28--1052
Days From Ground Zero Plus One--It isn't easy to sleep
these nights. September 11 is approaching. I count the days
and minutes, somewhat like a man in a prison waiting for the
day when the scrape of the key in the rusty lock signals it
is time to leave the dungeon and enter the sunlight.
The new show, Rescue Me, doesn't help much.
I felt a big knot in my gut as I watched Dennis Leary's rage
and anger splatter across the television screen like so much
vomit. In real life, the actor has suffered the pain of many
losses and is the "fireman's friend," but his show
boils up the dead fish floating in the bottom of the pond for
some of us.
There is an anger and rage deeply rooted in
the marrow of those eye witnesses to the holocaust of September
11, 2001, and some guilt and shame. I am reminded that deep
within me is this hole in my soul that speaks to me and says:
"You should have died that day. Why are you alive and so
many others dead?"
Like the nightmares I have been having. They
are gripping in intensity, far more vivid and churning than
any dramatization I might see on television, for they arise
out of the primordial ooze of human emotions, jumbled and mixed
up in images that flash like rolling thunder and than CLAP so
loud you bolt up in the bed, sweat dripping off your forehead,
and your wife clutching and soothing you as though you were
some child who heard the floor creak and saw the boogeyman's
I was falling the other night. Tumbling through
space. End over end and then soaring as I opened my arms and
watched the earth telescope toward me. I don't remember crashing
to the earth. I only remember the ledge and it falling away,
and the empty space of gravity sucking me down like a rock.
They say it is the recall of watching the bodies
leaping from the World Trade Center Towers. I was there with
my neck craned upward, my body and mind frozen, numbed into
a state of emotional shock, as one after another of the trapped
people leaped or were pushed or fell from the fiery inferno
nearly a quarter mile above.
I remember not long after that I was in Rockefeller
Center and was mesmerized by a bronze statue of a woman on her
back, smashing into the ground. Eric Fischl, the sculptor, had
lovingly depicted the horror of those who fell or jumped from
the Twin Towers on Nine-Eleven in an articulate way, making
the woman's impact and simultaneous death almost beautiful.
There were such graceful lines about her figure despite the
rendering of her terrible death. It was provoking art, that
made you wonder about the value of life and how wasteful situations
can be that threaten its fragility.
Unfortunately, the scupture was hailed as heresy,
defaming the glorious deaths of so many in such a cruel and
insensitive way. The statue was draped like a patient with some
virulent disease so that when you passed by you wondered what
was behind it. Then, it was removed from Rockefeller Center,
as though the dust and ashes of the dead can be removed from
their graves.Go To
for story (second half of story)
I thought about that statue a lot over the
many days since Nine Eleven. I thought of how it reminded me
of a Sentinel of Vigilance's immortality--that even in death
there is life, even in the pits of despair and empty loneliness
can blossom hope and belief.
It isn't easy when September 11 rolls around.
This will be my third one. It reminds me of another "mortality
date" among the many in my life. But this is different
than escaping bullets in Vietnam, or escaping the ravages of
colon cancer. September 11 was about the death of something
deeper in all Americans. It was the death of the "fantasy"
of security and safety.
Maybe that is what saddens me the most about
the approaching event. I feel so powerless to protect my children
and grandchildren from Terrorism's long, ugly arm. I was, like
millions before me, willing to go to war in far-off lands to
protect my homeland. The idea of giving up your life in some
god-forsaken place for a people and culture you might never
understand or respect, was, I thought, the price of liberty
I know today that's not true.
The price of liberty at home is Vigilance here,
It has nothing to do with fighting wars abroad,
for there is no way to hold hands and keep the tides from coming
in. But, there is a reason to hold hands. That is to protect
the children and their Children's Children's Children.
September 11, 2001 has haunted me because it
is a hallmark day. It ushers in the duty we have as individuals
to become Sentinels of Vigilance in our homes, communities,
businesses and to reevaluate our way of life so that we think
more about the future of the coming generations than in simply
lining our pockets with today's profits.
The greatest investment in the future is the
Pledge of Vigilance, for without some commitment to fighting
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency for the benefit of our future
citizens, then little of what we do today has much value or
This the Terrorists feed upon.
They question the Western cultures ethics by
demonizing our capitalism. They see us as profit hungry creatures
who are more interested in instant gratification than we are
in preserving and protecting the roots of our current glory.
They have a point. One billion Muslims and
more growing each day are shaking the trees and hoping the monkeys
will fall. They stand violently opposed to modern culture that
is so "I" centered that the "We" and "Us"
seems to have little chance surfacing.
Many of us forget that on September 11, 2001,
hundreds upon hundreds died as a reminder to us all that we
need to fight Terrorism from within before we can defeat it
without. We must learn to convert Fear into Courage, to change
Intimidation into Conviction, and to quash Complacency with
Right Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children.
If we don't deal this now, we will all wake
up in cold sweats, seeing burning bodies leaping from windows
and wondering why we are alive when so many of our friends are
being rendered into sculptures, symbols of the glorification
of their deaths that no one will ever see.
To July 26 "Fear Of A Terrorist Mouse"
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