Article Overview:   The New York City Marathon was run today--and in its midst were the Sentinels of Vigilance.  They raced along with all the other winner and heroes of the day--a reminder to us all that they were not "victims" of a tragic event, but competitors in the Battle of Vigilance over Terrorism.


Sunday--November 2, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 781
New York City Marathon Defies Beast Of Terror
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Nov. 2, 2003-- The New York City Marathon was another grueling example of Vigilance over Terrorism for more than 30,000 participants today.

NYC Marathon course snakes through all five boroughs

      Fear, Intimidation and Complacency attacked all the runners in various degrees as they pushed their physical and mental strengths to the limits to complete or fall victim to more than 26 miles snaking through all five of New York City's boroughs.
       An estimated 1,000,000 people watched the event where men and women, with and without legs, challenged themselves and their endurance to tackle one of the most noted marathon's in the world.
      It wasn't always that way.  In 1970 when New York City held its first marathon, only 127 entered and less than half, 55, finished.   The grand prize was refurbished bowling pins.  A total of $1,000 was spent on promoting the event.
      This year, the total prize money topped $532,000, with the two winners each receiving a bountiful $100,000 each.  In the men's division, Martin Lel of Kenya won in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 30 seconds wearing bib #8.  The first USA finisher was Matt Downin, taking 17th place with a time of 2:18:48.
      Taking first place and setting a course record in the women's division was another Kenyan,  Margaret Okayo, finishing in 2:22:31 wearing bib #F5.   The top USA finisher was Sylvia Mosqueda, in 10th place with a time of 2:33:10.
      The real challengers, however, were the people without legs or missing an arm, or unable to walk.   They competed in wheelchairs, heads lowered, arms wheeling their vehicles through New York City's 8 million population, proving to the world that the Beast of Physical Terror doesn't rule their lives.

Margaret Okayo, the top female finisher

      My wife and I stood in the middle of 59th Street, facing Central Park, leaning on a police barricade as the wheelchair racers ground past, twenty-five miles behind them, only a mile to go.
      The crowd cheered each as though he or she were the top athletes in the world, spurring on those whose arms trembled and neck and shoulder muscles quivered with exhaustion.


Top male finisher Martin Lel

     As the wheelchairs passed you could see some had no limbs, or that artificial limbs were exposed.   They were young and old, a mixture of people from all lands, all colors, races and ethnicities.
     There was something sacred about their effort--different from those with healthy, completely functioning bodies running in the event.   They were the Sentinels of Vigilance, the men and women wounded by life, some victims of tragedies, others victims of circumstance, or warped genetics.
     But they didn't sit in the bile of their situation and let Complacency's clouds suffocate their will to live or the thrill to compete.

Courage and Conviction drives these racers be Sentinels of Vigilance

         Terrorism's greatest enemy is the "spirit of competition."   It is the Courage and Conviction that drives those who appear to others to be "victims" to stand up and fight another day, to not drop their Swords of Shields of Vigilance when everyone around them might consider their right to "give up" a reasonable resolution to the grim and rusty blade of tragedy that crippled their limbs.
       In many ways, I liken the wheelchair competitors to the "victims" of 9-11.   On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 men and women died when the Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93.
      There is a tendency for all of us to look upon those lost lives as "victims" of a tragic event.    When we shed such tears, we dilute their sacrifice.  We wash away the strength of their lives and bury them in dark, dank graves as though they were mere spectators in the bleachers of life, who died when it collapsed.

There is the tendency for us to look upon those who lost their lives in Nine Eleven as "victims"

       But there is another view--the view I prefer.  I see the hundreds and hundreds of men and women who died that September day as Sentinels of Vigilance--strong, courageous men and women who faced the Fear of death, and Intimidation of disaster with Right Actions rather than Complacency.  Even those I witnessed at Ground Zero leaping from the burning buildings, some hand-in-hand, chose a better death than that the Terrorists sought for them.
       Then there were all those heroes who helped others escape and stayed to die while others could live.    We will never know who they were as a society, but they were many.    More than 20,000 people escaped death that day while others selflessly gave their right to escape up to insure others the right to life.
       Even those caught in the holocaust by sheer accident who may have died instantly deserve a courageous view of their death, not one of merely being a victim of a tragic event.

We know the Souls of Nine Eleven are Sentinels of Greatness

       For those of us who see the Souls of September 11, 2001 as heroes, as great competitors in the struggle between the Beast of Terror and Vigilance, we know they are Sentinels of Greatness.
       Their memories stand victorious to those of us who see them as the Spirits of Vigilance, forming a ring around Ground Zero, looking out to the horizon to keep an eye on encroaching Terrorism, remind us all to take the Pledge of Vigilance, to become Mothers and Fathers, Grandparents, Loved Ones and Citizens of Vigilance.

I saw the Spirits of Vigilance in the spirit of the wheelchair and handcycle competitors

       Their Voices sing in the silence of their death, a melody of victory rather than victimization, a joyous song rather than a funeral march that begs us not to bury them, to discard them as fragments, shrapnel of circumstance that illuminates only in some memorial.
        I saw each of them in the spirit of the wheelchair competitors.  The wheelchair marathoners were hosts to the Sentinels of Vigilance.  They were running the Race of Vigilance, without arms or legs, without some vital part of their body in tip-top working order.    


Wheelchair category: competitor drives the bike forward by spinning the wheels

      The NYC Marathon divided the divisions into wheelchairs and handcycle categories.  In the former, the athlete lowers his or her head and drives the wheelchair/bike forward by spinning the wheels with his or her hands. 


Handcycle category: competitor uses hands to spin wheel handles in the upright position

     In the latter, the competitor uses his or her hands to spin wheel handles in the upright position, much like pedaling a bicycle.
      The top wheelchair men's marathoner was an American from Georgia named Krige Schabort.   The 37-year-old crossed the finish line 1:32:19.  He was joined in the victory circle by 23-year-old Cheri Blauwet from California who won the women's wheelchair division in 1:59:30.
       Handcyling victors were, Bogdan Krol, 47, from Poland, with a time of 1:33:07 to cap the men's division and Helen Hines, a 55-year-old Californian with a time of 1:49:13 taking the women's division.

Wheelchair victor, Bogdan Krol

       I was touched by a young man totally handicapped in one wheelchair.  His father or grandfather, I wasn't sure, was pushing him.   The man was drenched in sweat.   The young boy riding in the chair was a paraplegic.   His eyes caught mine, a stare that seemed to glue me in time.  It took me back thousands upon thousands of years through human evolution, where the weak became the strong, and the rules of evolution broke between the brute with a club and the person with a will.
       Human willingness to compete is far more powerful than brute strength.  Terrorism seeks to use brute force.   When I came home to download the pictures from today I spun the news channels around.   Fox News was debating the future of the war in Iraq, based on the killing of 15 combat troops today in a helicopter.
      The Secretary of Defense was noting that polls show 63% of Americans want us to complete what we set out to do--to drive Terrorism away.  To not give up the Terrorism Marathon, to not retreat, to not fold, to not crumble just as we near the finish line.
      My wife and I walked toward the finish line and watched the wobbly knees of some of the runners turning into rubber as they struggled to mount the last 200 yards to the finish line.
      Hundreds cheered them on as they drunkenly weaved, legs failing them, muscles exhausted, toward the final crossing--toward the Vigilance Line.

I mostly thought about the competitors in the wheelchairs or those hoping they would  just finish

        I thought about all the competitors of the day.   I didn't think much about the pros who run and win.  I thought about the people in the wheelchairs, or the people who ran in hopes they would finish.
      I heard a man next to me say:  "If they finish, they're heroes."
      I wanted to correct him and say:  "If they compete, they're heroes."
      On September 11, 2001, our heroes of Nine Eleven weren't just the firemen and police who were paid to die to save others.   They were the men and women who went to work that day not expecting to die, not paid to die.
      They competed in a great Olympic of Vigilance that day.

I saw the heroes of Nine Eleven in the faces of the wheelchair and handcycle competitors

     And, I saw them in the faces of the wheelchair and handcycle competitors, in the faces of those struggling to lift their legs, in the faces of those kneeling by the side of the track puking their guts and struggling to rise up and run one more step.
      Yes, it was a great New York City Marathon today.  One run for the Sentinels of Vigilance as well as the world.   It was a day for us all to cast aside the word "victims" and replace it with "heroes." 



A few pictures of today's great New York City Marathon





Nov 1--A Picture Tour of Halloween

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