This was a personal piece that is running in the new edition of The NATION along with some of the thoughts that led me to it. I'm better with pictures than I am with words, so….
Although my family and I no longer live in NYC, we were there on Sept. 11. We sat in our apartment, 2 blocks away from the towers, sipping coffee and talking about our first child who would be born in just a couple months.
We witnessed the attacks firsthand. I was on the roof of our building when the second plane hit the south tower. We felt the heat and shockwave from the now infamous orange fireball that exploded directly overhead. After the towers came down, I helped my neighbor who had to evacuate her 4-day-old niece in a cardboard box covered with wet towels. A few minutes later Alina and I were on a police boat heading for Liberty State park.
I mention this, and I guess it's because of this experience, that I've been watching the controversy about the building of the Muslim center (and Mosque) grow, fueled by hatred, fear, sadness, bigotry, and most importantly a complete lack of respect for what our Constitiution represents. I have a deep respect for the families of 9/11 victims. Some support the center, others do not. I would hope though that as part of the healing process they come to understand that this was an attack by individuals , not a faith.
Issues like this are being twisted daily to divide us, when centers like the proposed one are trying to enlighten and reveal a deeper understanding of the many cultures that unite us. To deny a constitutionally guaranteed freedom, in the name of patriotism is the highest form of irony I've seen in recent time.
A Muslim friend said it best to me years ago. "There was somehting else hijacked on Sept. 11 – the identity of Islam itself."
This center was conceived to heal that wound, to help take it back.