Thursday--October 3, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 386
War Heroes Can Be Schoolteachers
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 3--Yesterday my six-year-old grandson's school was under
siege by a sniper. No. I don't live in a third-world
country. I live in New York City.
For two hours a gunman a block away
sprayed bullets from his apartment window. My grandson and a
school full of children remained holed up in the gymnasium waiting for the
police to issue an okay for them to leave.
But the hero of the day wasn't a
flack-jacketed police officer--instead, it was a school teacher.
The teacher, 25-year-old Ayana Reyes,
and a co-worker were taking eight children for a walk from their preschool
when she was hit in her left shoulder.
The wound was superficial, but
nevertheless bleeding. Fortunately, the bullet grazed her shoulder.
Ms. Reyes, and a school aide rushed the two-year-olds back to the
Manhattan Kids Club II preschool nearby on East 14th Street. She
returned to the scene where she tried to help determine the source of the
"The only thing I could think
of was getting the kids back safe," she said, adding that she was unsure of
what the noise was. "I stayed calm. I didn't want them to feel like there
was anything wrong."
There's a couple of vital
elements to the heroism of Ms. Reyes. One, she took the
children's safety and security over her own. Getting the kids
back to school safely, without alarming them, was her first instinct.
She wasn't driven by the "need to survive," but rather by the "need for
Vigilance." The children came first, even though she had been
The second element of her
heroism is that she returned to the 'war zone' where she was shot in an attempt
to locate the sniper. Her priority was in helping police
locate the source of the shooting to prevent others from being shot.
We talk a lot about the
heroes of Nine Eleven--the firemen and police who rushed into the burning
structure to save lives. While I honor them for their
deeds, they were both trained and paid to do their jobs of risking their
lives to protect others. Ms. Reyes' teaching contract
didn't include putting herself at mortal risk to spot a sniper after she
had been shot.
In a mad rush to find
"heroes" we can place on pedestals, we often overlook the mundane heroes,
those in the daily drudgery of life who shift gears from being "average"
to people of "uncommon valor." Ms. Reyes certainly is
one of those.
First, was her concern
for the emotional and physical safety of the children.
Vigilance, I believe, is not just about fighting the physical aspects of
Terrorism. It's not all about "killing the enemy," so we might feel
"safe." It's more about "defending the Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency" that results from the threat of Terrorism.
Few will agree that by killing
a Terrorist, or locking him up, or destroying the cells that weave spider-like throughout the world, that Terrorism will disappear.
New Terrorists will rise up from the graves of the old.
Terrorism is the crabgrass of humanity. It will creep into the
finest soil and attempt to choke the innocent sprouts, just as it has in
An army of police, fireman and
all the military might in the world cannot stop Terrorism from trying to
suck the marrow out of civilized societies. It is the
cancer of humanity, a virus that lays dormant waiting for the right
incubation before it explodes.
The true defenders of
Terrorism are the average citizens of the world, not their governments,
intelligence communities, military or SWAT teams. With the
most powerful military sources in the world, America still cannot find
Osama bin Laden.
Ms Reyes is not a trained "Terrorist
Hunter." But she is Parent Of Vigilance. In her role as
teacher for two-year-olds, she assumes the role of Sentinel of Vigilance.
Her priority is not only their safety, but the safety and security of all
the children. That is why she went back to the scene of
her shooting. That is why she was fearless in her attempt to rid the
people and their families of the Terror of the sniper.
History will probably wash Ms. Reyes
actions from the beach of memory. While we will continue to
lionize the police and firefighters who died in the line of duty on Nine
Eleven, the teacher who returned to the sniper scene will fade away.
Her commitment to the safety--physical and emotional--of the young
children will be forgotten by the vast majority. Her role as
Sentinel of Vigilance, Citizen of Vigilance, Parent of Vigilance, Guardian
of Vigilance, will pass as the wind overhead in an annals of "heroism of
But her acts will not find their way
past the Sentinels of Vigilance who hover over Ground Zero, reminding us
all that it is every citizen's duty to protect the children from
They will not forget Ms. Reyes.
They will embrace her acts of
selfless dedication, and honor her as we still here on this earth cannot.
The sols of those who died on Nine Eleven know this is the Era of
Vigilance. They know it will take people like Ms. Reyes to
thwart the Terrorism that has risen from the bowels of the earth and
shadows our every step, even those of a teacher walking her children on a
beautiful day through a quiet, normally peaceful and serene apartment
Ms. Reyes knew enough about Vigilance
to insure her children were not attacked by Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency. Wounded, she portrayed the counter-elements of
Terrorism--Courage, Conviction and took the Right Actions in the face of
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
But the goal of Vigilance goes far
beyond the role of the "teacher."
Parents, guardians, grandparents and
loved ones of the children must assume the role of Vigilance as Ms. Reyes
did yesterday. Her first goal was the physical safety, and
immediately behind that, the "emotional safety" of the children.
As Parents of Vigilance
and Citizens of Vigilance, we have a duty to protect our children
from Fear, Intimidation and Complacency. Terrorism
snipes at our children each and every day, in a variety of ways,
some so subtle they are often overlooked, or given askance attention.
When a child awakes,
hugging him or her and telling the child you love him or her,
starts the day the right way. If a child awakens
without being issued the "love of the day," what defense
does he or she have against the Terror of those who might try
to instill Fear, Intimidation or Complacency in the child?
A parent or
citizen who rises each morning and reads the Pledge of Vigilance
before starting the day is reminded that the world is full of
snipers, some who shoot to wound or graze, some who shoot to
kill one's self worth, destroy one's dreams, or drive one into
a state of Complacency and futility.
Terrorism needs as
many Warriors of Vigilance as possible to ward off assaults.
Each of us can become
one by taking the Pledge of Vigilance.
Ms. Reyes did.
And, she's my hero
of the day.
2--Snipers & Grandsons
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