‘Ground Zero’ Rising: 10 Years Later
Each year our family recounts the history of 9/11. We light our candles, we say our prayers for the families that are still coping with the tragedy of their loss and we recall our feelings at that dreadful hour…when we realized that the world wasn’t as small as we once thought it was. For so many of us September eleventh has become more than a date on the calendar, it’s an ominous reminder of what we’ve lost. This often makes me wonder, what do other families think about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center? Is there fear, relief, anger, pride, closure? For our family, it’s mixed. I’m so proud of the memorial New York has been working hard to erect in honor the victims and service professionals who lost their lives, I’m proud that so many Americans are still thinking of that day and giving their own tributes at home and I’m proud that Americans feel courageous enough to put one foot in front of the other. On the other hand, I’m a little nervous and slightly uncertain of whether I should be celebrating or not. Are we dismissing the past by moving forward or is this a sign of our combined strength and patriotism? Sometimes I have to wonder, because I don’t always know how to feel about it. We have gained compassion and strength, but have we lost our freedom somehow? Are we able to move past the guilt and fear that often comes with such an act?
While I am celebrating the creation of the memorial and honoring the lives of those lost and families left behind, I’m also mourning the destruction of what I thought was once normal in America and the loss of security that I once thought I had. While our country may be more secure now than in the past, I can’t help but feel like it’s a false sense of security. Yes, we have precautions to stop terrorism, but at what price? Yes, we have caught Bin Laden, but how many others died in our pursuit? Yes, we have locked up our borders and we act on every tip that seems suspicious, but still, do we feel safe? Hearing the news reports of racial profiling, unwarranted searches and detention centers for American Muslims leaves me less than comfortable in my own country. I don’t doubt that America needs to take strict precautions, I also don’t doubt our need for security, but we must realize…our American Muslim neighbors are not the enemy.
When I first heard that American Muslims were seeking to build a mosque in New York, near Ground Zero, I thought “Good for them. This must be a sign that relations are improving”. Further reports in the news, however, revealed that many were outraged by the effort and were trying to put a stop to its creation. I can understand to some degree that New Yorkers are upset. Many lives were lost and so many others were changed beyond recognition. But, I just wonder…if we claim that we don’t attach all Muslims to the problem of violent jihad and terrorism, than why prevent the construction of a mosque? Should we see all Muslims, especially those in New York City, as potential terrorists? I think it’s an unfair and damaging assumption and one that has resulted in many hate crimes throughout the last decade.
In reference to the building of the mosque, Marvin Bethea, who was a paramedic at ground zero was quoted by CNN, “I lost 16 friends down there. But Muslims also got killed on 9/11. It would be a good sign of faith that we’re not condemning all Muslims and that the Muslims who did this happened to be extremists. As a black man, I know what it’s like to be discriminated against when you haven’t done anything.”
Marvin’s comments really resonate with me. American Muslims are our fellow Americans and shouldn’t be viewed as anything less. So, when President Obama celebrated Ramadan at the White House last month, I was proud that he used that opportunity to honor American Muslim families who have also lost loved ones either in the attacks or as servicemen and women in the years following 9/11. I’m glad that these families are finally being given opportunities to grieve and I hope that we will greet them with this same humility and acknowledgement at the reveal of Memorial Plaza.
This memorial is an opportunity for our country. It’s a chance to look into the faces of those we’ve lost, to know that their memories will live on and it’s a reminder that Americans haven’t forgotten about them. We haven’t brushed them to the side, lost sight of their stories, their families or the efforts made around the country to fill in the gaps that they’ve left behind. We won’t forget that we’re in this together, that we share the same struggles, the same patriotism. What this memorial will show is that Americans come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and that in those final hours, what truly mattered, what we did when the chips were down, was evident to everyone.
Divided we fall, UNITED we STAND.