Zero Plus 354
Why We Need A Tomb For The
"Unknown Sentinel Of Vigilance"
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, September 1--There is a mad rush on to identify all the remains
of those who died on Nine Eleven. For some, it is an effort to
"close the book of death," to write the "final chapter on Nine Eleven."
Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier at Arlington
But it seems impossible and
inappropriate to achieve
such finality. Instead of closing the book on Nine Eleven, we should
be opening it.
For example, a man who was
previously considered dead or missing recently surfaced in a hospital, nearly a
year after the Terrorist attack. At least 78 unresolved cases exist
as authorities scramble to complete a list of all who died to be read at
Ground Zero on the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, which took the
lives of an estimated 2,800 at the World Trade Center. Nearly 20 percent,
or over 500 of those who died that day were citizens of more than 80
Officials face major hurdles in
finalizing the "death list," most of them from the
low-profile employees or visitors to the building, such as a 77-year-old
Bronx man who shined shoes there. Witnesses who survived the attack
attest he was there. His name was recently added to the casualty list.
Chief Charles V. Campisi,
the NYPD official who led the initial mission persons' accounting effort,
reports that to date, 1,379 victims, just about half, have been confirmed
dead by positive identification of their remains. Another 1350 were
declared dead by court action, following families submitting evidence to
prove that their relatives were at the trade center when the attack
occurred and they haven't been seen since. There are 78
Some families have not filed papers
for the death certificate of their loved ones, clinging to the hope they
might appear, or refusing to accept the probability of death.
Then there is fraud. Nearly 70
claims submitted by people alleging their loved ones died that day are under
investigation. Twenty-five have been charged with falsifying death
certificate documents. A Queens woman claimed her estranged husband
was a window washer working that day, but he was found alive and well on
Long Island. A Bronx woman said her mother was visiting the
World Trade Center on Nine Eleven and they were separated. It
turns out her mother died in 1998. A man from China said his wife
was killed while having breakfast with friends in the towers, but she was
later found alive in Japan.
Officials are hoping to have a "final official
count" for the Ground Zero ceremonies on September 11, less any fraud
claims and including all who have been reluctant to file death
certificates for their missing loved ones. The estimated
"final count" is expected to be 2,750, excluding the 10 hijackers.
Combined with the 233 killed in
Washington and Pennsylvania, September 11 will be the second bloodiest day
in United States history, behind the battle of Antietam in the Civil War,
when 3,650 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed in a single day.
An equal amount of wounded are estimated to have died from complications
in the days following the battle. (link to Antietam casualty
Ironically, the Battle of
Antietam occurred on September 17th, 1862, just six days following the
events of September 11, 2001, which occurred nearly 139 years later.
The Civil War produced the most deaths in American war history, with 623,
026 lives lost. The next highest death count is World War II, with
407,316 American deaths. The lowest war is the Gulf War, accounting
for 269 deaths.
In each "war" there is always
the "missing" the "unaccounted for." Today, we occasionally see the
poignant black flags, reminding us about the MIA's of Vietnam. The
flags represent frayed threads of hope that some may have survived, but
more importantly, serve as a testimonial that we should "never forget the
nameless, faceless who remind us of the horror of war."
I believe we should have a memorial for the
"Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance," similar to our monuments to the "Unknown
Soldiers" of all wars. To me, a tribute to the "Unknown
Sentinel of Vigilance" is far more powerful than the one to the "known."
Anonymity is a key factor in
remembering any event. The faceless, nameless person or
persons entombed in any grave could be any of us, or any of our children,
or any of our relatives or loved ones--perhaps some far distant cousin,
some genetic link to our past and present.
Anonymity is about the faceless
part of all of us, representing the commonality of human beings,
regardless of race, color, creed or national origins.
Facelessness represents the ultimate in humility, the reduction of our
prejudice, greed, envy, sloth, pride, lust.
The Amish have, for years, depicted the
facelessness of human beings in their dolls. Societies around the
world use the symbol to represent the "oneness" not the "individuality" of
the human spirit.
Any of us can
stand before the "Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance Memorial" at Ground Zero
and see our children, or our children's children's children in the grave.
We all need to be reminded that we are "one" in the battle against the
Terrorism--not just the physical Terrorisms, but the emotional elements as
well--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
On a family visit to
France many Christmases ago, I stood before the Unknown Soldier's Tomb
under the Arc de Triumph. I felt the presence of his or her being
radiating up from the concrete and brass enshrining his/her anonymity.
Around me bustled the city of Paris, teeming with life and freedom and
peace. But below my feet was a memory of the Terror of War,
the futility of loss of life.
Tomb of Unknown
Soldier - Paris
As a combat vet who has seen
much death and destruction, the majority of war is senseless.
Standing on foreign soil, I felt a sadness for all who are forced to
die at the hands of any war's Terrorism, whether it be in our country or
I believe the Sentinel of Vigilance Memorial at
Ground Zero would be as important as any memorial to the anonymity of the
innocence of war. The "Unknown Soldier" serves to remind us that any
of our children or children's children, or loved ones, could be entombed
Further, I don't believe the book on Nine Eleven
is closed. The reading of the names of those who died this
September 11 will not be an act of finality or a closure on a soiled
chapter in American Vigilance. Instead, it will represent for the
Vigilant the first page in a long historical book about the need for new
Courage, new Conviction, and more Right Actions to snuff out the Terrorism
of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency which leeches into the marrow of any
society and infects its populace with an aversion to looking at the past
as a precursor to the future.
The ceremonies held in a few days from now
will be the foreword of the "Book Of Vigilance," a dedication page, not
the denouement of a story whose ending is written in blood and sorrow,
pain and tears, sadness, guilt, shame and a thirst for revenge..
The creation of the Sentinel of
Vigilance Memorial, for the "Unknown Soldier/Sentinel of Vigilance,"
serves as the first page in the Era of Vigilance.
I believe many pages will be written about the
need for Vigilance--for renewed Courage, Conviction and Right Action to
thwart Terrorism's venoms of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
And, I believe, the Sentinels of
Vigilance will guide our hands as we write, and keep watch over us--even
though we may not recognize their faces, or know their names--they will be
watching, guarding, reminding us to not forget they are here for us, today
and tomorrow, and urging us not to bury their memory in a ceremony
of the forgotten, to shovel dirt on the sadness of their
We can keep their spirits alive by taking the Pledge of
Vigilance. We can feed their Flames of Vigilance by posting it
in a conspicuous place in our homes and businesses. We fathers,
mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts and others who care for
the future can recite it and review it constantly to keep the forces of
Terrorism--our Fears, our Intimidations and our Complacencies--from
running roughshod over our Courage, our Conviction and the Right Actions.
These Tools of Vigilance are necessary to protect the children's
children's children from future harm.
Take the Pledge of Vigilance today.
Do it as a salute to the "Unknown Sentinel of Vigilance," who, if you look
closely, is reflected in any mirror you gaze upon.
Greek Tomb of
the Unknown Soldier
Russian Tomb of
the Unknown Soldier
of the Unknown Soldier
Italian Tomb of
Go To Aug.
Sword Of Damocles--Terrorism Hangs Overhead
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