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.
2, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 781
New York City Marathon Defies Beast
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.
course snakes through all five boroughs
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
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.
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.
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
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
I saw the
Spirits of Vigilance in the spirit of the wheelchair and handcycle
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.
category: competitor drives the bike forward by spinning the
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.
category: competitor uses hands to spin wheel handles in the
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.
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
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.
thought about the competitors in the wheelchairs or those hoping
they would just finish
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
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
I saw the
heroes of Nine Eleven in the faces of the wheelchair and handcycle
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."
pictures of today's great New York City Marathon