Sunday--October 20
, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 403
Eagles Of Vigilance

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, October 20 -- The Eagles Of Vigilance flew mightily above the Great Lawn of Central Park yesterday.

        They were part of a New York City birds of prey exhibition, many of whom swooped down from high above, talons extended, knocking Terrorism to the ground, squeezing the life out with the razor sharp tips of their raptor talons, and striking at Terrorism's heart with the bayonets of their sharp bills.
         They were the Sentinels of the Sky, wings spread on the updrafts of a cool, windy, slightly drizzly day as a few hundred men, women and children crowded up against the fences forming a horseshoe to view the raptors diving at over a hundred miles an hour en route to their targets, a lure swung by the falconers.
         It made me feel a little safer to know the eagles and falcons were repopulating the skies--especially since the F-16's have left New York's skyline.  

         For those critical of such a viewpoint, one must remember that Vigilance is a state of mental readiness.  When the guns and bullets leave, you are left with only your Courage, Conviction and Right Actions to ward off Terrorism's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   One must fill the gap with something.  The raptors did that for me.    

 American Bald Eagle: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

        Anyone standing on the Great Lawn watching the American Bald Eagle flapping its mighty wings in the wind, its bright white head swiveling 180 degrees one way and 180 degrees the next, was overwhelmed with its symbolic power of protection.   I felt the surge of confidence rushing through me as the eagle's handler walked the great bird across the lawn on his shoulder, and its wings flapped and its head tucked, ready to fly like a bullet through the sky, able to pick a mouse's whiskers twitch from 10,000 feet high.

      Thanks to efforts by Urban Parks Rangers, a division of the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, eagles are back in flight over New York City.   On August 28, four eagles were released in northern Manhattan--an effort repopulate the city with eagles.   Over 100 years ago the eagles made their homes here, but urbanization drove them away.  
       Tom Cullen, Master Falconer and Eagle Project Manager for the city's parks and recreation department, said the eagles were imported from Wisconsin and arrived in the city on June 20, "exactly 220 years after the bald eagle was declared the national symbol," he said.   Two males and two females were released.  New York officials, Cullen added, are hoping the eagles will become symbols of renewed strength and pride, boosting spirits in the wake of Nine Eleven.
     "We're bringing back our nation's symbol to New York," Adrian Benepe, commission of NYC's Park and Recreation said.  "We've been through hard times before--we are still in hard times but this is a nice symbolic part of the resurgence of New York."

      The American Bald Eagle at Central Park yesterday was named Colonel Morgan, after USAF Col. Robert Morgan who captained the famous Memphis Belle in World II.   At 23, Col. Morgan flew 25 bombing missions in a B-17.   At the time, 80% of his fellow pilots were shot down.  As he explained it, "You went to breakfast with ten other pilots and had dinner with only two."  
       Following Gen. Doolittle's bombing of Tokyo in B-25's, Col. Morgan was the first to bomb Japan in a B-29.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Memphis Belle B-17 Bomber

     The eagle, Colonel Morgan, was shown by the Pennsylvania Raptor and Wildlife Association, Inc. from Mt. Bethel, Pa.  The wildlife center's primary purpose is education.  It promotes increased understanding of wildlife behaviors and basic scientific facts.  P.R.W.A. offers many presentations beginning with General Ecology and Biology of Wildlife.  More focused programs include:  Raptors: Identification and Biology; Wolves: Yesterday, Today , and Tomorrow; Wild Canids: A Comparative Look;  Misunderstood Animals; Bats: Beneficial and Beautiful; Sharks: An Apex Predator. To contact the center for information, scheduling, membership call 570-897-6659 - or write to: P.R.W.A., 7 Allegheny Rd., Mt. Bethel, Pa 18343.
       Besides the eagle's presence on the Great Lawn yesterday was a host of other raptors.   The most exciting was the Peregrine Falcons.  

       They put on an exciting show of power and strength to hunt down their prey.   Currently, there are 16 pairs of falcons nesting in New York City, a total known population of 32.    They make their homes under the great bridges of the city and high in the alcoves of the great skyscrapers and church steeples that paint the city's skyline. 

       The first falcons were introduced to New York City in 1983.  Falcons eat other birds, and New York is a flyway for many species.   Scientists have measured the falcons eating habits over the past 15 years and noted they consumed over 75 different species.  The great F-16's of the aviary breed can dive up to 273 miles per hour in pursuit of its prey.
       The falcon's Sentinel of Vigilance is a guy named Chris Nadareski, a scientist with the Department of Environmental Protection.  He has nursed the falcon growth over the years to its current state of 32.   He regularly checks the falcon's nests, and, when a couple hatches new babies, he crawls onto a building ledge or bridge tower and attaches bands to their legs for tracking purposes.
      It's not a safe job.  
      Mom and Pop falcon are known for the Vigilance, and will attack anyone trying to disrupt the nest.   Nadaresk has been sliced by falcon talons numerous times, but continues his work despite its danger.  He instructs workers on bridges how to avoid the nests and is constantly keeping the public informed on the falcons so they do not disturb their habitats.
      What struck me at the Great Lawn demonstration of the falcons and eagles and other birds of prey was the awestruck faces of the children watching the majestic birds in flight. 

       When Harris Hawks were flown to hunt down "rabbits," the park ranger emceeing the show explained that the hawk, who hunts only on the ground, helps keep the mice and rat population down.   He had the kids guess what kind of rats populate New York City, and to everyone's surprise, it was the Norway rat.   He also told about how Harris Hawks hunt as a family, with the males flying through the bush and trees to flush out the prey, and the larger females flying above ready to swoop down.   Depending on the size of the prey, up to twenty Harris Hawks have been known to attack the prey simultaneously, working as a  team to feed their family.

Falcon  with prey

                  Horned Owl                                     Screech Owl

     Horned and screech owls were present on display, illustrating the diverse wildlife in the 848 acres of Central Park as well as other parks throughout the city's and five boroughs.

      One comment most caught my attention during the three hours my wife and I were spellbound over the great birds of prey.

Harris Hawk

        A  Master Falconer was talking about the American Eagle.   He said:  "You can walk anywhere in the world with the bald eagle on your arm or shoulder, and everyone knows what it stands for--Vigilance!  Courage! Conviction!"

Young Falconeer

        I realized as I watched the children's faces in wonderment the power of their national symbol.    I have always been awed, and I'm glad the turkey, once suggested as our nation's symbol, was voted down and the eagle won out.

      The eagle's power as a symbol of Vigilance is best depicted by the Great Seal of the United States, designed by Charles Thompson.  Work on the symbol began in July 1776 and was finalized six years later.   The Great Seal includes these elements:

       On the breast of the American bald eagle is a shield with thirteen vertical white and red stripes beneath a blue chief. In the eagle's right talon is an olive branch, and in his left a bundle of thirteen arrows. In his beak is a scroll inscribed with the motto E pluribus unum.  Over the head of the eagle, a golden glory is breaking through a cloud, and surrounds a constellation of thirteen stars on an azure field.
       In designing the elements of Vigilance, I have included the Shield of Vigilance.   Its purpose is to ward off Fear with Courage, deflect Intimidation with Conviction, and inspire Right Action in the wake of Complacency.  I was pleased that our Great Seal includes a shield in front of the eagle.
       Charles Thompson, the Great Seal's designer said of the shield: 
"The Shield is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters, to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own virtue
       Historically, when one placed a shield on a logo, beside it stood what were called "supporters," figures of men and or women who held the shield in place.   But Thompson felt that Americans were individuals, people who were given the right to stand for themselves, to become their own Sentinels of Vigilance, not relying on government or authority for their essence.  Thus, the shield has no support, except a person's virtue.  It was as if Thompson was charging us all to become our own Sentinels of Vigilance, to not fall Complacent to the idea that others were in "charge of us."

      The Pledge of Vigilance, I maintain, is a proponent of that ideal.   It is a commitment that we as Citizens, Parents, Grandparents and Loved Ones of Vigilance make to protect our children, and their children's children's from harm.   It is like the Peregrine Falcons who attack Chris Nadareski when he messes with their nests--always Vigilant on our own two feet about threats of Terrorism from either within or without.
       Thompson's statement also indemnifies what President Bush is seeking.   While trying to negotiate a coalition of nations to support the "war on Terrorism," he is standing behind the Shield of American Vigilance as proscribed on the Great Seal--"the United States of America ought to rely on their own virtue."    In other words, whether or not the world agrees with us or not is not as important as the virtue of our belief to stop Terrorism.   We do not need the consent of others to act.   That principle was part of our founding fathers' and mothers' wishes, expressed through the shield that stands in front of the American Bald Eagle.
       The Shield of Vigilance protecting the eagle is balanced by two other symbols clutched in the eagle's talons.  The first is thirteen arrows in his left talon, and an olive branch in his right.

      The "bundle of arrows" in the eagle's left talons represents the unity of the United States to defend itself against all.   An example is taking a toothpick and breaking it easily, because it is one.  But take 13 toothpicks and try to break them as one bundle.   The arrow signifies our ability to wage war against those who threaten us, but only through unification--as one of out many.  As Thompson put it thirteen is: "Infinitely stronger than a single rod, the unbreakable nature of aligned rods means that the bundle of arrows also symbolizes the power of unity – the attitude needed to successfully protect and defend one's nation, and if necessary, wage war to do so."

        In balance to war and aggression, the Great Seal has the eagle carrying an olive branch in its strongest talon--the right one.   The designers of the Great Seal used the phrase: "the power of peace & war." To further emphasize the superiority of peace, they placed the olive branch in the eagle's stronger right talon as well as turned the eagle's head toward the olive branch, which has 13 olive leaves.   (Note:  The Presidential Seal is very similar to that of the United States, except it originally had the eagle's head turned not to the olive branches, but to the arrows--suggesting the President was in charge of war.   In 1945 President Truman issued an executive order reversing the eagle's head in the Presidential Seal to look to the olive branches--reminding all that peace was the first priority, and if it couldn't be achieved diplomatically, war would follow.)
     Truman's shift of the eagle's head is an alert for critics of war to look at its reasoning--the failure of peace.  When diplomacy fails and security is threatened, the only other option is war.
     Like the Peregrine Falcons, those who would attack the "children's nest" wage war on all by default.   They must be driven away to bring peace.

A Feeding Gyre Falcon

     In a like manner, we are all charged with the duty to wage war on personal Terrorism when diplomacy fails.  When our mind is filled with Fear, Intimidation and Complacency and we can't seem to rid ourselves of its presence, we must wage war on the Terroristic Thoughts.   We must ward off the feelings of self worthlessness, or powerlessness, or futility in life, or succumb to their power.  
      That's when we muster the Eagles of Vigilance.  We call upon them to swoop down to our rescue and attack the Terroristic thoughts.   We "wage war for peace, not for conquest."  To achieve this we muster the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Actions an eagle would in protecting its children, its eaglets from harm.   That's why we call upon the Eagles of Vigilance.  They are our symbol of strength.
      If we don't fight Terrorism, we will lose all our virtues.  We will become "losers," "failures," instead of "winners," and "achievers."    Our enemy, Terrorism, knows only destruction.   The sniper in and around Washington D.C. is a physical extension of internal Terrorism.   He attacks women, children, old men and women, the innocent, with indiscriminate madness.  So do Terroristic thoughts.  They prey on our weakness.
       But the Great Seal of the United States is also the Great Seal of Vigilance.   It calls upon us to fight the enemy in pursuit of peace--first in our minds, then in our lives.
       Before one can become a true Parent of Vigilance, a Loved One of Vigilance, a Citizen of Vigilance, one must first have fought the battle within--must have conquered the personal Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies that haunt them, or, at the least, exposed their presence, ripped off their covers.
        I believe each person who takes the Pledge of Vigilance will become an Eagle of Vigilance.
        When?   You can start today.  You can download the Pledge of Vigilance and start soaring as eagles do. Become an Eagle of Vigilance now.

        Spread your wings for Peace, and, if you have to go to war with Terrorism to achieve it, then do so, but only for the reasons of protecting the children's children's children not yourself.   And don't wait for anyone else to do it.   Remember, the Shield of Vigilance was designed for us to stand up on our two feet, e pluribus unum, out of many, one!
        Be the one.  Be an Eagle of Vigilance.








Oct 19--I Am My Grandson's First Terrorist

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