Monday - - Ground Zero Plus 76
THE SHAME OF FORGETTING TO REMEMBER
OUR HEROES OF SEPTEMBER 11
On Sunday night, I took a
quiet moment to think back to September 11 as the Thanksgiving weekend came
to an end. I had neglected to honor them on Thanksgiving
Thursday. I was Complacent. I was neglectful.
Last night I thought back about the horror of being at Ground
Zero, of watching bodies falling from the burning building, about the shock
of fear and horror on peoples faces, the fear of death when the ground
erupted and a great black cloud of destruction swallowed me and thousands of
thought of the bravery, the courage, the fearlessness of the firemen, police
and emergency workers who rushed into the burning holocaust to save the
helpless, the victims of Terrorism. I thought of my daughter, a
federal law enforcement officer, crawling through the rubble in search of
comrades, seeing death at its worst—and wondering if the impact of September
11 would change forever the innocence of her being, as Vietnam had done
mine, as the children of September 11 will forever be changed.
about the Thanksgiving Dinner I enjoyed with family members, and realized we
did not say a prayer for the lost souls, the tortured families of the
victims, or the children who have been left with scars on their hearts and
souls from Terrorism’s first assault from without on the heartland of
complacent, I thought, of myself, to forget to clink my glass and take a
moment to say a prayer, or enjoy a moment of silence in remembrance of those
fallen heroes, those tragic victims, those glorious Sentinels of Vigilance I
have conjured who watch over my children, my grandchildren, all children.
I felt a
bit ashamed as I remembered my neglect, my Complacency to remember, to
salute the heroes of the Second Tuesday of September. I
wondered if I, like so many others, wanted to “forget” and “move on.”
I wondered if the pain of recalling the past was so powerful we buried
it—or, perhaps, more cruelly, if we just didn’t care that much because we
were safe, because none of our children suffered a loss of life?
inside, as I sat remembering those fallen heroes, I knew the families who
had lost children, grandchildren, husbands, wives, cousins, uncles, aunts
and loved ones—I knew they didn’t forget. I knew they said
something at Thanksgiving—or, perhaps just let the power of silence say
words that could not be spoken.
didn’t offer a prayer at Thanksgiving. I didn’t say: “I
survived September 11.” Or, “I honor the fallen of September 11.”
Or, “I salute the heroes of September 11.”
Entrance to Penn Station
Ashamedly, I said nothing.
It was like any other Thanksgiving. Well, almost. Until
Sunday night when I sat up in bed in the middle of the night, something
gnawing at my guts, reminding me that I had “turned my back” on my friends,
my heroes, my allies of Vigilance.
weren’t mad at me. Their Voices just whispered, as memories do, “Don’t
forget us, Cliff. Don’t forget how easy it is to forget.
We’re here, even if you forget. Fight the desire to forget, to become
Complacent. We’re rooting for you.”
I thought, I remembered. Perhaps a moment or two too late.
But, I remembered. For that I was grateful.
So I wish
to salute the heroes of September 11 now. I stand at attention,
my eyes toward the shadowy imagine where the Twin Towers once stood. I
see 25,000 people escaping, and 5,000 dying—giving their lives so that we
might not ever forget to be Semper Vigilantes—Always Vigilant.
you, Sentinels of Vigilance, for protecting my children and grandchildren.
For setting an example of Courage, Conviction and Action in the face of
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
Sentinels of Vigilance, become the Parent of Vigilance I need to be.
Help me never forget Terrorism cannot be killed. It can only be
stopped at the gate with Vigilance.
In Remembrance And Appreciation--
Parent of Vigilance, Grandparent of Vigilance, Citizen of Vigilance.
Sunday--Ground Zero Plus 75
CREATING THE MAGICAL ANTI-TERRORISM WAND
I carved a Magic Wand last night—specifically to ward off Terrorism in all
been years since I put a sharp blade against a twig of wood, and bared the
beauty of the grain laying just beneath the rough and rugged bark.
But I was compelled to do it, as though I had reverted back to those years
when, sitting by the Columbia River in Hood River, Oregon, I would whip out
my pocket knife and turn a stick or broken portion of a branch into some
divine instrument of magic that would turn the forest into a playground,
trees into Knights of the Round Table, flowers into beautiful Princesses
waiting to be saved, and craggy boulders into Monsters and Dragons I must
slay to bring peace and harmony back to the land.
half-century later, in a small, compact apartment in the East Village of New
York City, protected by fifty-nine winding steps leading to my “castle
keep,” I was rushed back to the years of lore as I whittled away at the
broken branch my five-year-old grandson had found on Thanksgiving to turn
its gnarled shape into a work of magical protection.
young boys, like Harry Potter, savor the idea of being able to wave a magic
wand and change the world. President Bush has his “magic wand,”
and is waving it over the Middle East in an attempt to rid the “evil ones”
from our land. The “magic wand” the President has is the idea of
“executive war power,” where the Constitution of the United States is put in
the back seat while the acts of the “Imperial Wizard” can be performed
without the consent or decree of the people or their representatives.
When the dragon is breathing down your neck, you don’t vote on which Knight
in Shining Armor you’re going to approve to ward him off.
how my grandson intended to use the “magic wand” I was making for him, I was
creating it to protect him from the Terrorisms Within the Kingdom, not those
from the Dragon’s Breath. I knew that sometimes the Dragon Eats
The Knight. My experience told me that “absolute power
corrupts,” and often turns a Knight In Shining Armor into the Dragon.
I wanted Matt’s “magic wand” to not just bestow powers of protection from
without, but mostly, to protect his rights within.
carefully sharpened my knives. As a young man I worked in the
woods in Oregon. I spent my summers on survey crews trekking deep into
the forests to survey future logging roads. It was very
primitive, and we often forayed deep in the womb of Nature for ten to twelve
days living off the land as well as our dwindling supplies.
those days there were no radios or helicopter drops. We became
the forest, and the forest became our supermarket. Toward the
end of the deep survey treks, we ate lots of fish caught in the streams
wending their way through the mountains.
Trees became both our ally and our adversary. We carefully set
up camp away from dead three-hundred-foot Douglas Firs because in the middle
of the night you could hear the creaking and groaning of the great monster
trees starting to fall. They would roar and rumble as though the
beasts of the night were awakening, and then begin to fall, crashing slowly
through the stillness of the night, crushing everything in their path.
It was often like a bomb being dropped, and if you were in the path of the
dead tree’s fall, you would be crushed. Fear was fought with
remember awakening in the pitch dark of night, frozen, hoping that the
falling tree would not find its way toward our camp--but never sure since
the shroud of darkness masked danger's presence and its destination.
Magic helped. You hoped and prayed a dead tree wouldn’t fall
near or on you, and held your breath until the earth shook with a great thud
as the tree came to rest to become a deadfall--mulch for the forest floor.
Sometimes I would carve an
amulet, just for fun, and tuck it under my bedroll at night, my primal
symbol to the forest to seek protection from its magic.
For when you are in the forest of darkness, you must ask it to protect you
from all the harm that befalls your smallness as a human
being walking through giant Douglas Fir tops
that seem to tickle the belly of heaven above.
recalled those moments as I carved Matt’s magic wand. I knew the
wood held in its marrow, magic beyond the imagination.
carving it, I began to sand my work of magical art. I brought
the rough edges to a smooth, safe state. No splinters would
spear into my grandson’s hands! I deftly carved a handle,
with small rings so that his fingers could easily grip the magic wand, and
give him a sense of personal power to protect himself from the “evils
been to the movie 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'. While
not overly impressed, I realized the power of magic for the imagination of
young and old. I wanted my grandson’s magic wand to rival the one
Harry Potter had; perhaps, even outdo his.
had all the wood ready, I rubbed olive oil over it, darkening the grain
slightly, and sealing it. Then I took some Old English furniture
wax, and deepened the color. Finally, to protect it from any damage, I
rubbed neutral shoe polish over it, working my hands over the wood rapidly
until it heated up so the pores of the wood would open and seal the polish
It was a
magical “Shield Of Vigilance,” I thought. I held it up and
admired it. But it wasn’t finished. It needed
something. It needed a crown and a face, something to
personalize it, authenticate it as being a tool of “vigilance.”
wife came home I displayed my handiwork. She was generous enough not
to admonish me for having whittle and sandpaper remnants in the living room
where they had missed landing in the towel I placed in my lap as I worked
feverishly over the anti-Terrorism wand.
she sighed, examining my work. “I have an idea for the face."
She went to the bedroom and rummaged through her things, then came back with
a lion earring she didn’t wear anymore, and I excitedly placed it on the top
of the wand. It was perfect. Then I went about
looking for a bauble, a piece of costume jewelry that would adorn the wand,
give it that magical peak from which the power would spear out to protect
the weak, the innocent, the underprivileged, the complacent, the
intimidated, the fearful with its security and safety.
in her “bauble collection” seemed to fit. So we decided we could hunt one
down the next day.
step was to show Matt’s parents the magic wand. I knew it wasn’t
appropriate for me to give something as powerful as a magic wand to child
without the endorsement of his parents. They liked it.
I was in. There was only one more hurdle—would Matt like it?
Would Matt see the magic in it?
seen it in the rough form, when he found the stick. But, I had
transformed it into a work of art, and perhaps he might see more magic in
its raw nature than its refined appearance. Plus, perhaps my
idea of a magic wand and his was different. We would see.
Then I thought about how I was going to present the wand to him.
I wanted to tell him it was an anti-Terrorist tool, carved with the power to
stave off the “evil ones” who might threaten his safety, his security and
his rights as an American citizen. But that was all too
complicated for a five-year-old.
to simply tell him it was a Wand Of Vigilance. It was to protect
him from harm, and his family from harm, and all other children from harm.
tell him that it contained the three powers of Vigilance—Courage, Conviction
and Action. And, to engage the magic wand, all he would have to
do is say the two magic words: “Semper Vigilantes!”
tell him that he must keep a close eye open for the “evil ones,” who might
try to take away his freedoms as well as threaten his security.
And that often the “evil ones” appeared to be dressed in friendly, helpful
clothing, but deep down, they might wish to create harm. And, if
he was ever threatened with fear, intimidation or complacency (a
feeling of not being able to do anything to fight back), he could call out
the magic words: “Semper Vigilantes,” and the Wizards of Vigilance
would come to his rescue.
Saturday--Ground Zero Plus 74
FOR THE LOVE OF A CHILD—THE MESSAGE OF VIGILANCE!
I wasn’t really paying much attention to the story unfolding on the ice
arena at the Meadowlands as Walt Disney’s production
of Toy Story was being played out to the delight of thousands of children
and parents by fabulously costumed ice skaters, dramatic music, and lots of
cotton candy and popcorn being sold to hungry youngsters and
gravity-challenged parents and grandparents (of which I am one.)
I was busy taking pictures with my digital camera, half listening and half
detached from the story being told. Then I heard the Sentinels
of Vigilance speaking through the mouth of Buzz Lightyear when he said the
words that drilled me to my seat, and caused all my antennae to peak to the
message the children were hearing:
the love of a child, life has no value. That’s the message I’ve
come here to tell you.”
Lightyear, Space Ranger, was telling Sheriff Woody why he should go back to
Andy, the little boy who loved him, rather than go to Japan and live in a
museum with all his sidekicks. The dilemma was, if Sheriff Woody
didn’t go with them, the Japanese wouldn’t buy all the other toys, and his
friends would be stuffed in storage and rot away in a dusty corner.
Woody had to choose between his love for his friends, and the love of a
little boy named, Andy.
Terrorism comes in many forms. Sheriff Woody was terrorized by
the thought that one day Andy would grow up and not love him any more, and
he would be alone, unloved. Stinky Prospector, the antagonist in
the story, was afraid that if Woody didn’t go, then they would all “die a
dusty death” on some dark corner of a toy store. He tried to force
Woody to go, constantly reminding him that if he didn’t, all his friends
would “die” a sad death.
added a great monster (symbol of Terror) who came out on the ice with yellow
eyes and ominous dark clothing, threatening them all.
to realize that the message of Vigilance is all around us. When
Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger, risked his life to tell Andy the “message of
Vigilance,” I glued myself to my seat. My ears cocked. I
listened as a child might listen.
happens to us when we “grow up?” What happens when we “stop believing”
in the magic of a child’s love?
Obviously, a Terrorist has long forgotten that feeling of a child’s love, or
he wouldn’t maim and murder and terrorize indiscriminately. True
love for a child means protecting that child from all forms of
Terrorism—both the physical as well as the emotional.
“Life without the love of a child has no value. That’s the
message I came here to deliver.”
Buzz Lightyear and his band of Toys of Vigilance—Slinky the Dog, Mr. Potato
Head, and Rex, the dinosaur—fought the fear and intimidation and complacency
with courage, conviction and action. Buzz wasn’t afraid to
brave the dangers of Terror to tell his buddy Andy that he “belonged” with
Andy. And, ultimately, Andy wasn’t afraid to realize his job was
to love Andy more than he loved himself and his friends
After all, he was a toy!
Today, combating Terrorism is measured by the amount of bombs and missiles
we drop or shoot, and whether or not we have “killed” bin Laden and all his
“evil doers.” To children, the art of eliminating
Terrorism in our current situation comes down to “killing” not “loving.”
In contrast, Toy Story’s message was: “love overpowers fear of death.”
I saw Buzz Lightyear
as a Sentinel of Vigilance for children. I saw him as a symbol
of what Parents of Vigilance should be telling their children—that “fear”
twists ones thoughts back to self-protection. It tends to make one
selfish in his or her decisions, and, it intimidates the real value of life
which is “love” not “hate.”
American children are being told by many sources that “killing the enemy” is
the way to avenge an injustice. Unless a Parents of Vigilance
step into the middle of this message and block it with the kind of loving
understanding and explanation that deals with alternatives to violence as a
solution to fear, intimidation and complacency, children risk the danger of
“authorizing” violence as a means to resolve any dispute with “fear.”
take issue with the government’s lack of concern for children in this “war
against terrorism.” I believe the government should be issuing
warnings to children, as we do with cigarettes, that “violence may be
dangerous to your health.” Instead, I see a rubber stamping of
violence as the ultimate solution. I see it on the news. I
read it in the paper. I hear it blasting out of the President of the
United States’ mouth.
I find my
grandchildren not exempt from the message of violence. If you
listen to children carefully, you can hear the formation of “violence as a
solution to Terrorism” hardening their vulnerable arteries. It
comes out in “hitting,” and “taking,” and “selfishness,” and “refusal to
listen,” and “stories,” and, in their “dreams.” But it requires
a Parent of Vigilance to “listen” to the “heart” of the child. It
requires a Parent of Vigilance to be “vigilant” about watching for the
dangers that can grow within a child’s feelings toward “evil.”
For the first
twenty or thirty minutes of the Toy Story Ice Show I was complacent. I
wasn’t listening to the story. I was “beyond the story.” I was
busy taking pictures. I was an “adult.”
But then Buzz
Lightyear’s words startled me into a state of Vigilance: “Life without
the love of a child has no value. That’s the message I came here
At that point, I
realized the message Walt Disney was delivering to the children was to find
solutions to “fear,” “intimidation,” and “complacency.” Woody’s
fears he would be “left alone,” were overpowered by the responsibility he
had to be a “toy,”—to be there to be loved by Andy.
I believe we, as
Parents of Vigilance, have the same duty and responsibility to “be there for
Andy.” If we are true Parents of Vigilance, we will not let our
children live as adults in their minds with Terrorism. We will look
inside their feelings, and realize, as Andy did, that we are toys. We
are there with a child to “be loved” by that child. We are there
to make that child “feel safe” and “secure,” at the expense of our adult
often get so “busy” with “life” they forget to read their children stories
of “good versus evil” and instead buy them toys of violence, reinforcing the
solution to aggression is more aggression. Any adult who has tried to
get revenge upon another for a wrongdoing has experienced not the joy of
success, but the pain of defeat. Trying to “get back at another”
is a violent waste of time. In the end, you become the
“creature” you tried to “eliminate,” or “repay.” You become “evil” by
trying to avenge “evil.”
A child’s mind
processes things in simple terms. “Tit for Tat!”
That’s the message being delivered regarding Terrorism. But in
Toy Story, the message was: “You have a choice. You can be
Terrorized by fear of loneliness and abandonment at some time in the future,
or, you can love Andy one-day-at-a-time as is your duty as a toy.”
and the thousands of other kids there that day, saw Terrorism
defeated by Courage, Conviction and Action. Buzz
Lightyear, and his band of Toys of Vigilance, brought the message
to Woody. Woody chose the answer.
Our children can chose the right answer also.
All we have to do is bring our child the message—that the way
to fight Terrorism is not with Terrorism—but with Courage, Conviction
We just need to imagine we are Buzz Lightyear on a mission of
To: "Shifting The Paradigm Of 'Parents of Neglect To Parents
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