Nov. 3--Ground Zero Plus 53
"Mommy, Daddy, What's A Terrorist?"
What is your response when
your children ask you, "Mommy or Daddy, whatís a terrorist?"
I thought long about this answer. It could be a quick one that would
leave a child walking in the shallowness of a hurried explanation, or,
it could be an answer that provided depth, learning and wisdom about
how to live life without fear, intimidation or the possibility of
suffering the frustration of complacency. Here is some
suggested dialog to answer the question..
"Mommy, Daddy, whatís a terrorist?"
"Imagine a big, deep dark hole. Inside it are all the bogeymen you
can imagine. Tell us about some bogeymen you can imagine?"
"The kind that hide in the closet at night?"
"What other kinds?"
"The ones that come out when itís dark?"
"Okay, how about some moreÖletís say, what makes you most afraid?"
"The dark, Mommy. And the shadows, Daddy. Theyíre really scary."
"Well, terrorism is about being afraid. Terrorists are bogeymen. They
like to sneak out when you arenít looking and scare you. They like to make
people cry and be sad and worry."
"They arenít nice people, are they?"
"No. Because they donít care who they scare. They scare little
children, old peopleÖbabies. They donít care, thatís what a terrorist is."
"And they want to hurt people, too, donít they?"
"They donít care who they hurt. Do you know what a bully is?"
"Kind of, I think."
"Tell us what you think a bully is."
"Like, somebody who pushes you around. Or takes your toys. Makes you
"Very good. What else do bullies like to do?"
"They like to pick on people smaller."
"And hurt their feelings."
"Yes, and some terrorists want to hurt people very badly. Sometimes
they make things explode and fall down, and hurt lots of people just to
make a point."
"They want to show people they are strong by hurting the weak. Just
like a bully. And they think that making people afraid of them gives them
"Like, if I was afraid of them, they would win the fight."
"Yes. All bogeymen use fear to win their game. They think if people
are afraid of them, they are strong and powerful."
"But how do you not be afraid of a bully, Mommy, Daddy?"
"First, you think about what fear is all about. When youíre afraid of
something, it has power over you. Like if you are afraid of a big kid
taking your toy, or fell small, donít you? Like you canít do anything to
"Yeah, I felt like that."
"What if instead of being afraid of a bully, you saw a bully as an
ant pretending to be an elephant? Think about it? When people are mean and
cruel to other people, they really arenít big are they? Arenít they really
"Yes, but Iím still afraid of them?"
"You not afraid of them, are you, but of what they can do to you,
"Yes. I donít want them to take my toy and break it. Or push me. Or
call me names. That hurts me."
"What if a bully took your toy and smashed it? You could do one of
two things. You could cry and feel bad and be afraid of the bully, or, you
could just stand and look at the bully and smile, and know in your heart
that the bully was just an ant. And your toy wasnít so important that it
was worth making you cry, because you can always get another toy, but you
canít always erase fear."
"You mean, donít cry when someone steals my toy, or pushes me."
"Exactly. If you cry, then the bully wins. The bully has created fear
in you. He or she has made you sad. But if you look at the bully as bully,
a little ant dressed up like an elephant, then you see the bully for what
he or she is--just somebody trying to scare you. Somebody trying to make
you sad and afraid."
"But, I donít think that would be fair. Why wouldnít I get mad at the
"You could. But if the bully was bigger and stronger than you, he or
she might hurt you. Instead of getting mad, think of about learning from
"What would I learn from a bully?"
"Youíd learn not to be afraid. Youíd learn how to face your fear.
Like, if you wake up afraid at night, you can lay in bed and cry or you
can do whatÖ.?"
"Turn on the lights?"
"Thatís right. When youíre being bullied by someone, imagine you are
in a dark room and afraid. Instead of crying, turn on the lights."
"How do I do that?"
"See the bully as an ant pretending to be an elephant."
"Then I might laugh."
"Thatís the light of truth. A bully is someone who tries to make you
cry, tries to hurt your feelings by saying bad things about you, or being
mean to you or others. If you remember the bullies are just ants
pretending to be elephants, it will help you not be afraid."
"So a terrorist is an ant pretending to be an elephant?"
"In a way. A terrorist is just a big bullyó one who wants to really
hurt people. And the more they hurt them, the more fear they create. So,
if weíre not afraid of bulliesÖ"
"Then they really canít hurt usónot inside, right, Mommy, right
"Thatís right. And thereís one last thing to always remember about a
bully whoís trying to scare you with threats and words."
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!"
"I heard a good one too, Mommy and Daddy. Iím rubber youíre glue,
everything you say bounces off me and sticks on youÖ."
"Very good. So, whatís a terrorist?"
"An ant pretending to be an elephant!"
"Thatís it. And how do you fight a terrorist?"
"You see the antÖnot the elephant. You donít let them make you
"Perfect. Now, are you ready to go to bed?"
"Not unless you leave the light on!"
"If you can always believe ants are elephants, youíll never be alone
in the dark again."
"Well, just for tonight, Mommy and Daddy, I want to keep the light
Nov. 2--Ground Zero Plus 52
SILENT CHEERS FOR THE YANKEES
It had to be them. Five thousand plus silent Voices cheering
on the Yankees. What else could it be? Two nights in a row? The ninth
inning? Like some fairy tale story. Out of the ashes rose the Phoenix
I had fallen asleep last night. My daughter called to tell me the
game was tied. I tried to stay awake, but since I get up at four or five
each morning to work on the website, much after midnight is tough. And,
again, I had that lingering doubt, that insidious Complacency that we
"just couldn't do it again."
Vigilance wanes around midnight for me. I hoped they would win. I
wanted them too. But there is that incredible logic rolling around one's
head that suggests the impossible and improbable is not possible or
probable. I miss my childish visions when I did believe the "cow could
jump over the moon, and the dish could run away with the spoon." But this
morning, it was made a fact to me again--The Sentinels of Vigilance work
even when I sleep. I laughed at myself. Here I am, trying to promote
Vigilance and becoming Complacent. The Sinner trying to be a Saint.
Ah, but what was refreshing was to realize that I had no power over the
Sentinels. They had their own agenda. They were going to prove to me and
the world that Hope and Belief and Faith and Courage and Conviction and,
most of all, Action works even in the 12th Inning of Life.
Yesterday, I had pumped out nearly a hundred press releases about the
website. Uploaded files to get the site listed on hundreds of servers.
And written some well-known government officials who fight terrorism
politically and militarily, with my cry to add a grass roots battle to
their agendas--the Parents of Vigilance.
I felt like the Yankees with Arizona three runs on the board in the
Ninth Inning. What I didn't remember was there were 5,000 silent souls
cheering on their home team. I didn't remember Vigilance overpowers the
Skeptics may chalk up this win to just "luck," or "fortune," or maybe
an inexperienced pitcher for Arizona who threw the wrong pitches--all
logical, sound, skeptical stuff.
But I'm going to stick to my Friday-morning quarterbacking. And
that is that there were 5,000 silent Sentinels of Vigilance reminding the
Yankees "it ain't over 'till its over."
I awoke with the belief that one day the Parents of Vigilance will
spread their wings and fly in flocks all over the world. Maybe I'm in
just too big a hurry to win a long-fought battle. Maybe I'm in the first
inning and think it's the ninth? I take lessons from my environment. I
see the Yankees as my symbols of Vigilance, reminding me if I wait for
right pitch, and work on keeping my defense offensive, and swing the bat
to make hits not home runs, that I'll eventually drive the ball of
Vigilance into the stands.
I need to take the cotton out of my
ears, and listen to the Voices of Vigilance...those 5,000 souls who have
risen up from the ashes of destruction as Sentinels of Vigilance to remind
us all--"it ain't over 'till it's over."
1óGround Zero Plus 51
Yankees win WITH Courage, confidence & Conviction
i felt the complacency last night about the bottom of
the 8th inning. I was about to go to bed even though we happen to have a
Derek Jeter signed baseball sitting on our hutch. It seemed to me it was
over. But I forget Joe Torres' hat says, "It ain't over till it's
over." I forgot about Vigilance. I forgot the Sentinels of Vigilance
were rooting on the Yankees. Complacency in its most base form attacked
me. Just as I was about to chuck it in, my buddy Jeter took the plate.
Two strikes, two outs, no hits in the game...a big slump...I just didn't
want to see the pain of my Sentinels of Vigilance not being there for me.
I felt like the kid who stopped believing in Santa Claus. The, the pitch
came. And Jeter whacked it. And it flew, like the spirits of the all the
5,000 Plus spirits rose out of the World Trade Center and drove the wood
into the ball. Up and up and up the ball soared, and then the crowd
began to cheer. And I cheered. And cheered. And cheered. Jeter hadn't
forgotten the formula to fight Terrorism--Courage, Conviction and Action.
But I had. The first step, Courage...had turned to Fear the Yankees would
lose; the second step, Conviction had become Intimidation that the other
team was better, stronger, more deserving, and the last and most
insidious, was the Complacency that I was tired of believing in the
Sentinels, that maybe it was all fantasy--that Santa didn't really
exist---and I didn't take the Action...I resigned myself to go to bed and
wake up to the horrible news the Yankees had lost... but then...the world
changed. The ball soared, my spirits soared...I was renewed. Even if
you're not a Yankee fan, you have to admit there was magic last
night.... From the womb of the World Trade Center I could hear the birth
of belief....I felt the power of the Sentinels reminding me to stay
Vigilant. Because "it ain't over 'till it's over..."
31óGround Zero Plus 50
The Scariest Day
Of The Year-When We Forget!
Halloween! To some, it is the scariest day of
the year. It is the time the ghosts and goblins come out of the dark
shadows, their hands in the air--loud "boos" ringing in the dank dark
For me, tonight, Oct. 31, is scary because it marks Ground Zero
Plus 50. It is just fifty days and a day ago that Terrorism attacked
America's security, pounded its pride into a mass of twisted rubble and
thousands of innocent killed. But it seems like a century ago.
September 11 was a day the reputation of America as a "safe and
secure" nation died and the "ghosts and goblins" of Terrorism leapt out of
the shadows of death's shroud to squat on America's doorstep.
What scares me most about today is the fear, apprehension and
concern I have that so many are slowly forgetting the purpose of the
attack fifty days plus ago. The Second Tuesday of September hallmarked a
violation of our domestic peace, a destruction of our internal security.
It was a warning shot across our bow that we no longer enjoyed the Freedom
From Fear. It was an horrible announcement that we were now part of what
the rest of the world knows as "strife and rife" in their daily lives. As
some said that day, "Welcome to the real world, America."
Day Of Maturity
September 11 besides being a day of tragedy was also a day of
"maturity." It was at 8:48 a.m. that morning when America was told to
expand the muscles of its Courage, Conviction and to take Action for the
future of its children. At 8:48a.m on the Second Tuesday of September,
America stood on the threshold of manhood and womanhood, looking back at
its innocence as a child might who had been protected for hundreds of
years by its isolation from the rest of the troubled world. It was the
day that Americans knew they could die at the hands of some foreign
invader in the peace and quiet of their neighborhood.
America stepped out of the clothes of a child that day, and into
the icy blast of maturity. A child grows up in a cocoon of security. He
or she lives in the parents' house, enjoying the protection of the
"family." Then, one day, the child leaves the "nest." He or she
ventures out on a journey of maturity, where mother and father no longer
provide the shelter, security or constant vigil over them.
For many, leaving the security of "home" is a scary day.
Perhaps the scariest of all days. It is the day a child realizes he or
she is "alone" and "responsible" for their own behavior. When a child
and leaves the "nest of security," the world is often cold and
frightening, brusque and rough. Often, the child gets his or her nose
bloodied. He or she makes mistakes and must huddle in the quiet of the
dark to figure out the solution--unable to wrap his or her arms around
mommy or daddy or have them comfort and protect them.
September 11 was a day like that. On that day, the terrorists
smashed their planes into America's immaturity, forcing us "out of the
nest of comfort and security" and thrust us into the cold reality of a
brutal world that will indiscriminately kill women and children without
blinking an eye. It was the day we realized there are those filled with
such hatred they would terrorize the weak and helpless from the shadows of
darkness and then scuttle away in the aftermath to seek more darkness to
hide within until the day or night arose where it decided to strike out
again, and again.
September 11 was a day America was supposed to grow up.
But no one really wants to "grow up." America, as a nation, is
After hundreds of years of developing the richest, safest, most
powerful nation in the world, who among us wants to think a third-world
tyrant can make us quiver, or turn our spines into Jell-O?
Instead, many of us chalk up the experience of September 11 as a
tragic day in our history. We begin to push aside the anthrax scares as
the work of some frustrated terrorist trying to capitalize on the
disaster. We grow tired of the news telling us nothing can be done,
that we are ill-prepared as a nation to fight it. So, we turn off MSNBC
and switch on the World Series. We can hardly wait for the new television
programs to launch so they will take our mind off this "Terrorism News"
that has gone on now for over fifty days non-stop.
We ask: "Will it ever end? When can we get back to "normal?"
IT'S SCARY TO FORGET TO REMEMBER
This "Complacency" makes Oct. 31 the scariest day of the year for
me not because it is Halloween, but because it is another day when
thousands of Americans are slip off the slope of Vigilance and slide into
the quagmire of Complacency.
It is a day when thousands of people are making the decision that
since we have bombed the Evil One and shown the world we can and will
retaliate against terrorism, these "external actions" provide sufficient
warning to future terrorists that if they try and attack America again, we
will pulverize them into ashes also.
At the same moment, the Attorney General announces the impending
attack of more terrorism.
Whom do we believe? Do we believe our gut feeling that we need to
get on with life and put this terrorism behind us, this paranoia, this
fear of fright, or, do we huddle in the caves of self-imposed fear in Two
Boots, Montana where the last terrorist we saw was a bearded motorcyclist
with California license plates?
S0LUTION TO THE DILEMMA
I believe the simple solution to this dilemma is to form the
Parents of Vigilance. Our nation's battle with Terrorism is not focused
in the Middle East as we might want to believe, but rather in our homes,
our neighborhoods, our communities. Terrorism has two faces--the external
and internal. And it takes many forms to weaken and destroy us
The child who is scared of people, or frightened he or she is too
fat, too thin, not smart enough, not rich enough, not liked
enough--suffers a Terrorism that is far deeper than the fear of anthrax or
a World Trade Center repeat bombing.
The battle with Terrorism begins within a child's sense of
"security" as a person. The Parents Of Vigilance is about preparing a
child to cross the threshold of manhood or womanhood with pride and
dignity, to make them ready to deal with Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency in all aspects of their lives. It's not just about preparing
for anthrax or bombings from crazed enemies from afar. The attacks on
September 11 awakened us to a much more important issue--strengthening the
resolve of our children to fight Terrorism within.
REBUILDING A NATION OF PRIDE AND DIGNITY
If we use the tragedy wisely, we can rebuild in our youth a pride
and dignity that will help reduce crime, violence in our school and stifle
growing drug usage among teens. Vigilance of a parent toward his or her
children can only help sew the fabric of the family back stronger. Such
an effort is not based in Defensive Paranoia, but rather Offensive
Growth. By growing closer to the innermost fears and feelings of our
children-- creating Sentinels of Vigilance that stand to protect them from
the enemies of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency both "within and
without"--we turn tragedy into victory; we salute rather and bury those
who died on the Second Tuesday of September.
On this, the Fiftieth Day Plus of Ground Zero, I ask you to think
about not turning away from the events of September 11 as moment in
time--but rather to view them as a lesson for the future. Let September
11 stand as your moment of awakening. Let it be the moment you, as a
parent, commit to help your child, your grandchild, your niece, your
nephew, your cousins and loved ones grow stronger, prouder, more
self-sufficient human beings who can fight Terrorism in every quarter with
a champion attitude, and champion result.
Let this Halloween be your reminder the scariest day of the year
is the day we "want to forget" what happened on September 11 and the
reasons why it happened. If we do forget, the victims are our children
and their children children's children, and we, who forgot to remember,
become the real terrorists.
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