Zero Plus 364
The Dawn Of Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, September 11-- I am going back to Ground Zero this morning with
my wife. We will be there at 5:30 a.m. for a sunrise service at Robert
F. Wagner Park in Lower Manhattan. As the sun dawns upon the day, I will
see Hope on the horizon. It will be riding on the backs of the
Sentinels of Vigilance.
I know many will shed tears this day. Some will drop
like acid upon the soil of Ground Zero; others in sweet sorrow. Some
will not cry; their tears have long evaporated from their souls, leaving
the linings leathery, numb, worn by grief.
Still others will not be there.
They refuse to relive the moment of horror that haunts them daily over the
loss of a loved one.
Along with hundreds of other family
members, I am planning to lay a flower upon the earth at Ground Zero. I have become a brother to those
who died—in my soul if not in flesh and blood. I have lived
with those who died each day for a year. I set aside that day,
September 11 as Ground Zero Day. I count forward from it,
Ground Zero Plus. Today is Ground Zero Plus 364.
I have seen their faces for the majority of 1440 minutes of
each day, times 365. I've heard their words of encouragement when I
stumbled in the darkness of my doubts, wondering if what I was doing was
truly worthy of them, or if I had a right to configure them as Sentinels
of Vigilance, to breathe life in the marrow of their death.
I have felt their presence guiding my fingers
over the keyboard--becoming my readers, my audience. Few
others have been, but the Sentinels' presence in my mind and heart has been more than
enough to urge me on when I fell, to ignite the reason to get up each
morning and carve them out of the marble of my memories.
With respect, I have dressed them in clothing suitable for Sentinels
of Vigilance. I've given them wreaths to wear upon their heads,
Swords of Vigilance to hang at their hips on golden ropes tied around
My wife has helped me create a Shield of Vigilance
burnished with Courage, Conviction and Right Actions to aid the Sentinels
of Vigilance in their tasks of warding off the Terrorism that slithers in
the dark shadows below Ground Zero and beyond, stalking my children and
grandchildren, and preying on other children--the innocents of the earth.
I have listened to the cries of their loved ones who live after their
death, and held them in my arms when they teeter on the edge of a
breakdown, suffering the emptiness of the loss of ones so close.
I've known their loved ones were wounded, chunks of their hearts and souls
carved out by the senselessness of loss.
I have held them as a brother might a sister,
for they were all my family, my Brothers and Sisters of Vigilance.
I don’t think I’ll cry tomorrow.
If I do, I will cry tears of joy for their presence, not their
I have spent a large percentage of the limited life I have yet to
live on this earth memorializing their memory, giving them as much elan
vital as I possibly can muster with clumsy words. I know they
appreciate it. They thank me in many ways.
I also know they appreciate my wife who has
dedicated an equal percent of her remaining lifespan to bringing pictorial
life to the Sentinels of Vigilance. Were it not for the pictures she
strategically positions next to the vital organs of my words, few would
visualize the message as thoroughly as they do when a “perfect picture”
sums it up. She is a family member also, a Sister of Vigilance
to those Sentinels of Vigilance who will look down upon all the tears
falling at Ground Zero.
Tomorrow I will pray for the innocent who do not fully understand
why their Uncles and Aunts of Vigilance died that day. Part of the
innocent include our grandchildren. They are the sparks that ignited the
Torch of Vigilance in my wife and I to keep the Sentinels of Vigilance
alive. Were it not for the innocence of our grandchildren, and all
children, I might think that writing about the Sentinels of Vigilance each
and every day was an effort in futility, especially when few people read
what was written. But I know better.
Vigil Candle At Washington Square Park 9.10.02
My wife has helped keep the Sentinels of Vigilance Torch burning
through her Sophia’s Wisdom writings. They are the stories of Vigilance
for parents to read to children. They come from her experiences with
Matt, our six-year-old grandson, Sarah, our four year old, and, the newest
addition, Angus, conceived on September 11. He is approaching
his third month.
Our grandchildren are Children of Vigilance. They were witnesses
of the destruction. Sarah cried one day when vigil candles that had
burned from the first day of the disaster were removed from a store window
a number of weeks following Nine Eleven. Each day, on the way home
from pre-school, she wanted to sit on the window ledge and look at them,
and ask questions about the people they were burning for. She
cried the day they were removed. Children know so much more than we
Then there was the time on the bus when Matt excitedly yelled as
he looked out the window, “Look, the Twin Towers are back! Look! Look!”
It was a large semi-trailer
passing by, with the logo of the Twin Towers on its side
Our daughters have also been Sisters of Vigilance.
conceived a child on September 11. She and her husband brought
another life into this world with a legacy of Vigilance; proof Terrorism
has no shadow large enough to drive away the beauty of life.
During the aftermath of September 11, our older daughter continued her studies at
Union Theological Seminary, and in May, received her Masters of
Divinity. She walked across the platform to receive her diploma with
Angus in her belly, and her children at her side—symbols of the New Hope,
Children of the Era of Vigilance. She is family too, for those who died.
She carried in her womb the seeds of replacement, in honor to those who
gave their lives for all of us.
Our younger daughter is also a Sister
of Vigilance. Only unlike her older sister who carries a
cross, our younger one carries two 9mm Glocks. She’s a federal
special agent, working under cover, so I cannot define which agency she
works for. I often tell people I am thoroughly protected in
New York City by one daughter carrying a cross, and the other, two
On September 11, and for days and
weeks following the attack, our special agent daughter volunteered to dig
trough the rubble. She searched for signs of life, mostly at night,
after her working hours. She found a scalp one evening, and while it
was horrible in one sense, it was comforting in another--her discovery led
to the confirmation of a loved one's death.
There were other things
she witnessed and experienced rummaging through
twisted steel and concrete and ash, things only one
who has dug through a graveyard of horror knows. She is surely a Sister
of Vigilance, for the Sentinels of Vigilance know her well, as they know
all who gave their hearts and souls for them.
Then there is Emily.
Em, I call her.
We were friends before September 11, 2001. But on that day, we
became brother and sister. She was at the coffee shop with me when the
first plane screamed over. She was there when I packed my computer and
ran toward the Twin Towers to report the event, to witness history being
made—which at the time I had no idea what it would be, only that it would
be monumental, for a plane smashing into the Twin Towers had to be
She gave me a big hug and told me I was crazy for going, and
begged me to stay safe. She knew I was a writer, a former Marine Combat
Correspondent with lots of war experience. She had read parts of my book
I was completing, The Pain Game, my memoirs on being a Marine
warrior. It dealt with me being charged with the duty of “killing the enemy,” and immediately
after the last bullet was fired, donning another hat as a correspondent, a
muse, writing about the glorification of war, always torn between being
the poet and propagandist.
As I dashed toward Ground Zero, her brother, William Biggart, was
charging up his war correspondent cameras and weaving his way into the
thick of battle along with the firemen. Em didn’t know that when I left. She
found out later when her brother was reported missing. A few days later a
part of him was found, enough to confirm his death—the only news person
killed that day. Bill Biggart had traveled the world shooting pictures
of wars in the far corners of the earth, and died in combat in his own
backyard. His photos and equipment from Nine Eleven are now in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
Over the past year, Em and I have become brother and sister of
the soul. We often talk about the insanity of war correspondents wanting
to get as close as possible to the bullets and bombs, eager to stick their
heads up into the thick of it all to record the madness of human
destruction. I volunteered for over 100 combat missions in Vietnam; so
it was in my blood to record the Beast of Terror’s face in full frame on
September 11. So was it for Bill Biggart.
Just the other day Emily was over at our apartment. We talked
about that day, a year ago. I offered to walk with her
tomorrow, to be at her side if she needed me. She told me thanks, but
she was going to be okay. I gave her my cell phone to call me just in
My wife and I had paid tribute to the
Sentinels of Vigilance in many ways over this past year. We walked
with the families up West Street, at the Ground Zero Closing ceremonies in
May. It was presumptuous they shut the door on any hope of
recovering anyone from the rubble. We carried Ezekiel Walking
Sticks given to us by those lining the road, eager for us to have
something from them.
We have come to know the Sentinels of Vigilance so well, we feel a
part of them. Besides our writing and promotion of the Sentinels, we
have walked and talked daily about the importance of their lives--not the
ones they have lived, but the ones they are living now, and will live in
the future for those who believe in their purpose, who will take up the
Sword of Vigilance and Shield of Vigilance to protect the children of the
world from future harm.
Each day I
walk around the city with my digital camera and shoot pictures of scenes
that illustrate Vigilance. Over this past year, I’ve seen the Flags
of Vigilance fly with dignity and pride, and then disappear as the city
sought to forget the events, to return to normalcy. I was upset when the
11,000 cabs in New York City stopped flying their flags. I was
upset when the stores stopped using them to embellish their window
Now, the flags are being dusted off and
reinstalled. I noticed that Starbucks who had them up originally and
then took them down, placed new ones in their stores. The creases of the
new wrinkles could be seen, evidence of a resurgence, if only tertiary.
Then there has been the Terrorism
that we don't talk about. The Terrorism that isn't about Osama bin
Laden or Saddam Hussein.
Over this past year I’ve seen
Constitutional Terrorism at work, as the government stripped certain
rights away without a murmur from the citizens, without an uproar by
parents who let their children’s rights be whittled away by the incendiary
nature of the present problems.
Corporate Terrorism has raised its ugly head, ripping off people of
their life savings, crumbling the institutional concept of financial
security and integrity with the same devastation as the Terrorists’ planes
ravished the World Trade Center.
Spiritual Terrorism had its day.
The exposure of the Catholic Church’s child molestation problems shook the
foundations of trust among millions, and in others, shattered the image
that there was one sanctuary free from the Terrors of the world where a
child might be safe.
Now, a new Terrorism looms on the horizon—war with Iraq. I wrote
about it yesterday (see story link below) in a “conversation with God”
about the Eve of Destruction. There is a pessimistic side of me that
trusts no one. That’s why I need the Sentinels of Vigilance to remind me
that there is Hope, that there is a Dawn of Vigilance rather than an Eve
As the Dawn of Vigilance rises
signals my work isn’t finished. Neither is it for anyone who
thinks the events of tomorrow represent the end of anything.
It is the beginning.
Tomorrow will only prove that
Terrorism thrives, and that we haven’t progressed much in a year to
eliminate it. The next day (September 12), President Bush will seek the support of
the United Nations to attack Iraq.
I am convinced we won’t defeat Terrorism with bullets and bombs, or
airport security, or raiding our children’s Constitutional Rights.
Terrorism is a shadow, not a form. It can't be killed.
It can only be contained. Light will eliminate the shadows.
Only when Citizens of
Vigilance take a Pledge of Vigilance will the lights go on strong enough
to drive Terrorism under rocks.
When each citizen of America,
and other nations of the world Pledge Vigilance over Terrorism
within their homes, as part of their lives, will the Terrorists of the
world start to cringe. When each person takes on the duty to hold
the Torch of Vigilance up, Terrorism will lose its grip over us all.
Despite the Sword Rattlers of Violence, Terrorists aren’t
out to “kill” people. They want to Terrorize them with Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency. They are sociopaths, not maniacal killers.
Terrorists are bullies. When the community bands
together, they run.
Our enemy is selfishness. Alone, we
are helpless. By ourselves, we are mere grains on the beach,
subject to Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
But when individuals take it upon themselves to stand up for the
innocent, the helpless, the vulnerable, a new strength is found in all who
make that choice. No longer are they dominated by selfish fear. By
committing one's purpose for living to the protection and preservation of
the innocent, we all become selfless. The Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency, which haunts us when we only care about ourselves is replaced
with Courage, Conviction and Right Actions. We rise to a higher
calling. Societies always have when their children are
When the sinew of Vigilance is weaved into the muscles of our
individualistic society, Terrorists will flee. They will have no one to
This includes Terrorists from abroad, as well as those within our
borders—our government, our businesses, our religious leaders, and the
bullies of the streets.
Terrorism begins at home, not in Iraq. It is bred when we treat
our children with abuse—neglecting their need to be shaped and
strengthened from within as future Sentinels of Vigilance.
We, ultimately, are the Terrorists who make
our children fearful of telling us their fears, cause them to be
intimidated to share with us their dreams and hopes, and make them
Until we dedicate ourselves as Citizens of Vigilance, Parents of
Vigilance, Grandparents of Vigilance, Uncles and Aunts of Vigilance,
Cousins of Vigilance, Nephews and Nieces of Vigilance, or just as Loved
Ones of Vigilance, we haven’t really turned the tables on Terrorism.
It all begins with us, each of
us, recognizing that Terrorism is a process of thoughts that lead to
actions. And if we can direct our thoughts to those of Vigilance—Courage, Conviction and Right Action—and
steer them away from Terrorism—Fear, Intimidation and Complacency—then
we’re on the right path.
The day one takes the Pledge of Vigilance, he or she becomes a
Brother or Sister of Vigilance. A family member.
That’s the day one can reach up and join the
Circle of Vigilance that hovers over the World Trade Center, the Pentagon,
and the lonely field in Pennsylvania where the Sentinels stand guard.
I’m going to witness the Dawn Of Vigilance. I’m
going to see millions of hands joining the Circle of Vigilance,
and hear the Sentinels of Vigilance chanting to me—Semper
Vigilantes… Semper Vigilantes---Always Vigilant---Always Vigilant.
You can join the Circle of Vigilance
too. Just take the Pledge of Vigilance.
And you’ll hear the Sentinels of Vigilance whispering
in your ear: Semper Vigilantes....Semper Vigilantes.
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