Sunday--October 13, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 396
A Psalm Of Vigilance:
"Use My Years...Use My Years"
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 13 -- I knew it was a Psalm of Vigilance the minute
I heard the words--"Use My Years..."
These were the last words spoken by a
man who called his wife from Tower One. He said, "If I don't make it
out, use my years."
Potasnik, FDNY Chaplain (left) and Monsignor David Cassato, NYPD
Chaplain at ceremony Oct. 11, 2001
FDNY chaplain, Rabbi Joseph
Potasnik, stood before thousands of firefighters, families and loved ones
jammed in Madison Square Garden, delivering the final prayer to date of
memorializing the loss of 348 firemen on September 11, 2001.
The firemen represented 12.5% of the deaths on Nine Eleven. An
estimated 25,000 people escaped the buildings before they collapsed, many
due to the heroic efforts of firemen and police at the scene.
rabbi told a story about a couple who gave birth to a son on August 29,
2002. They named him Jarod Mark, his first and middle name. They picked the
names to honor the memory of those who died on September 11, Jarod
the name of one of the victims in Tower One, and Mark the first name of a
firefighter who gave his life in Tower Two. The rabbi said:
"The parents knew their memories must never be forgotten, and gave them to
their child even though they had never met or knew either of the two men
"Use My Years...."
When I first heard the rabbi speak the words, I
thought he said, “Listen With My Ears.” Later, I played the
video tape of the ceremony and realized he said: "I love you....use
I wondered for a moment
if he might have said, "Use My Ears" rather than "Use
My Years." Both, ultimately were the same. In
either case he was passing on the Gift of Life and the Gift of Vigilance
to his loved ones.
I savored the
words. There was something hallowed about them, a message not of a man
about to die, but from a man about to live in eternal Vigilance.
As I went to the gym to
work out, the words gnawed their way into my gray matter, nesting, making a
home inside the synapses that fire memories and aid recall. It was
as though each word was a hot rivet being jack hammered into the steel
girders of my Vigilant Thinking, reminding me to never forget they were
not only addressed to the loved one of the victim, but to the world.
“Use My Years...Use My Ears…”
I thought about both interpretations.
In one case, he was asking his wife to be his "Years of Vigilance."
As a firefighter, he was always on alert for the Beast of Terror,
disguised in flames that threatened the lives of the innocent,
unprotected. Every muscle in his body was trained to react to
its threat, to leap up out of a sound sleep and don his firefighting
combat gear and attack Fire's Terror.
He was also trained to prevent fire, by keeping
Vigilant eyes on faults that might cause a fire to start. He had
"Ears of Vigilance" also...cocked always to listen to for the crackling
footsteps of Fire's
Terror, to signal its approach.
"Use My Years...Use My Ears..."
What an epithet, I thought. What a
beautiful Psalm of Vigilance to sing to one's loved one as the Jaws of
Terror clamped down, snuffing out physical life and releasing the Spirit
of Vigilance to hover above Ground Zero, always watching, reminding all
the parents, grandparents and children to "Use My Years...Use
My Ears..." to keep Terrorism at bay.
What he was asking his Loved Ones was to listen for the footsteps of
the Beast of Terror, to keep their ears to the ground for its cloven
hooves, and to never assume that another held a greater responsibility
than they to protect themselves from Terrorism’s wrath.
He was offering, I believe the “Years of Vigilance" and "Ears of
Vigilance” to his Loved Ones, giving them the precious gift of Courage,
Conviction and Right Actions to fight Terrorism's fires of Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency.
The “Ears of Vigilance” listen for the hooves of three horsemen of
Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency. They listen for the
sighs of futility and seeming hopelessness within a human being, signaling
that Terrorism has taken root within that person’s soul, defeating his or
her self worth, sense of self destiny and made him or her feel as though
life is a hammer and he or she is a nail.
The "Years of Vigilance" represent the fuel
to counter Fear with Courage, to employ Conviction to douse Intimidation's
roaring flames, and to drive away the Complacency of doing nothing with
the power to take the Right Actions, as the fireman did when he put his
life at risk to save others.
“Use My Years...Use My Ears…”
"Yes," I thought.
"Yes!” What a beautiful final gift to a
He was passing on Vigilance. He
was telling those he left behind that he was not gone, but instead still
“on duty,” still a Father of Vigilance in spirit regardless of the fact
his body had been reduced to ash. He was saying his soul, the essence of
his humanness lives. It lives in those who believe he and
nearly 3,000 others still live as the Spirits of Vigilance, Sentinels of
Vigilance, hovering over Ground Zero, in a Ring of Vigilance, watching,
listening for Terrorism’s footsteps or the presence of its shadow, ready
to sound the Vigilance Alarm, ready to snuff out the sparks and flames of
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency and put in their place, Courage,
Conviction and Right Actions.
“Use My Ears...Use My Years...”
I thought of my own life. I thought:
"How am I using my Years? How am I using my Ears?
If I listen with Ears of Vigilance, do I hear something different?
Often, I don't. I listen
with Ears of Terror. I hear myself beating on myself, abusing
my self worth, questioning my values. I catch myself sometimes
thinking I am a failure, a loser, old and ugly, useless, unable to make a
dent in a world that seems to march on without noticing who I am, or
shining its spotlight on what I'm doing. Sometimes I feel
"victimized" by life, thinking: "if only this could have been that, or
that could have been this." I don't listen to the sounds of
Vigilance, but to my own self-depreciating Terrorism.
They say praying is when you talk to God, and meditation is when
you listen. I pray a lot in the sense I’m always the one who is
“mentally talking” to my Higher Power, always the one doing the
blabbering. But I don’t listen—not as well as I can.
Like so many egotists, I think I can figure out everything—that
I’m smarter than most--that I’m Almighty in my ability to understand the
world and how to deal with it. I’m not.
I need to remember that.
I need to remember what the Sentinel of Vigilance told his wife
just before his physical body died: “Use My Ears.”
I need to listen to the Sentinels of Vigilance with conscious
effort. When I get on my knees as an act of surrendering my ego to a
Higher Power, I need to stop babbling my petitions and say the words,
“over,” as though I am on a radio, signaling to the Voices of Terrorism to
shut up and listen to the Voices of Vigilance..
If I do, I will hear more clearly the message from the Sentinels
of Vigilance. I will be better tuned to their channel, and be able to
carry their message, not mine, to the Parents of Vigilance, the
Grandparents of Vigilance, the Children of Vigilance, the Citizens of
Vigilance and the Loved One’s of Vigilance.
Most importantly, if I really listen, I will be able to hear the
footsteps of Terrorisms marching in my own mind, and be ready to drive
them away with the Courage, Conviction and Right Action they offer to all
those who listen.
"Use My Years."
about that too. What the fireman was saying is that every
minute in life is precious--should not be wasted on the Terrors of Fear,
Intimidation or Complacency. Each of these demons must be cast
aside to make room for Courage, Conviction and Right Actions.
To live life fully, all 1,440 minutes of it daily, one must launch his or
her day with the glorification of life, and not look in the mirror and
grumbled, "it's just another day in the rut.
Nothing will change. I'm a nobody. I'll
just trudge through this day and hope to get to Friday so I can forget
about the yoke of responsibility on my shoulders."
"Use My Years..." suggests that I
must find something greater than my own selfish desires of survival to
give life true value...true meaning. If I don't step outside
my own self-centered circle, I will be crushed by "what I haven't done."
I will compare my own station in life to those whom I think have a better
one, and forget that my mission on earth has little to do with me, and
everything to do with others.
"Use My Years," means to a fireman
to be always Vigilant in the protection of others--to work for their
safety and security at the expense of your own, and not seek rewards in
the quest other than the satisfaction of a job well done. It
means if I focus the VigilanceVoice on the protection of the children's
children's children, and seek in all that I do to extinguish the flames
and sparks of Terrorism--both the physical and emotional kinds--I will
have the satisfaction in knowing the "attempt," not the "victory," is the
key to fulfillment.
"Use My Years," also means to me to
not let Terrorism dominate my thoughts. It means that
when I let myself get "down" over anything, I must right myself. I
must say "Stop Terroristic Thought," and shift my thinking
to "Vigilance Thoughts." I must work on my attitude toward
life, seeing each minute of life as a gift, an opportunity of sacrifice
rather than one of self-serving.
It means when someone says: "How are you doing,
Cliff?" I respond with either, "I never had it so good," or, "I'm alive,"
both responses becoming my way of reminding myself to live the gift of
life joyously, purposefully, despite all the Terrorists who battle in my
thoughts to drive me into Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
There was much meat in the meal served by
the Rabbi Potasnik as he shared the story of the firefighter's last words.
I chewed on them hungrily. I also knew I had to make myself be
present at the banquet table to partake of the meal.
I knew upon hearing them they were offered
as Song of Vigilance I need to sing in my mind daily. I knew they
powerful words, selflessly offered not just to the fireman's wife, but to
the world who had "Ears to Listen," and "Years to Live."
I hoped, in whatever small
way, the VigilanceVoice could help those who read it to develop
"Ears of Vigilance," and to use the "Years of
Vigilance" the fireman had offered in his last moments
on earth. And, I made a commitment to "use
his ears," and "use his years," for they were
gifts of selflessness, gifts I need daily.
“Use My Ears...Use
I will, Sir Fireman of Vigilance. “Yes, I will!”
12--Nobel Prize Of Terror
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