Peace — September 11th and Turning the Other Cheek

I wanted to write something poignant today, on this, the 9 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers, Washington DC’s Pentagon and, lest we forget, those who perished in the Pennsylvania plane crash on September 11, 2001. Last year, I wrote about my experience that day, working just blocks away from ground zero, watching the towers fall from my office window. This year, everywhere I look — in blog land, online, TV-land and at the local deli — there’s much focus on moving forward as opposed to looking back. Advice from individuals pressing us as a country to move on, to forgive, to use 9/11 as a catalyst for peace. I couldn’t agree more… AND less, in an unsettling sort of way.  But I could not put my finger on the source of my discomfort.  So I pressed myself to try and understand (because it’s my nature to do so)…

Mind you, I live within 30 miles of Ground Zero. I was working on the northern fringe of downtown New York City that memorable day… a day that I will NEVER forget as the first plane buzzed over my head, way too close to the ground, headed south on Broadway just minutes before it hit the first Tower.  A historic day, a day of great human suffering and world sadness for which I had been given a front row seat.  A day I watched unfurl right before my eyes… where 2000+ innocent people perished because those responsible for this heinous act of terror WRONGLY perceived that the innocent people in those buildings represented a nation that believed something different than they believe about “God”.  These EVIL people who KILLED because they believed that their religious beliefs were more right than mine; more right than yours; more right than everyone else’s.  They believed that their God called for such an extraordinary act of violence.  And calls for such acts ongoing.

Again this year, I read and listened to accounts of that day from folks who were halfway across the world and from folks who were so close they breathed the tainted New York City air with me as they walked off the island of Manhattan… No other way out.  I listened to people I know and respect from various walks of life, various political views and various religious beliefs as they expressed their point of view… I listened to what’s changed for them.  How they thought we should proceed as a nation.  Should  a mosque be “allowed” to be built overlooking the grave site of so many innocent people, and replacing the last building standing on what’s now locally considered hallowed ground? Should all the members of the religious group shared by those responsible for this crime against humanity be held accountable?  Should those directly responsible be positively represented (as part of their religious group) by permitting this mosque to be built… as a gesture for world peace?

Perhaps you’re getting a feel for my underlying sense of unease.  I’m not interested in denying religious freedom to anyone (there are over 100 mosques in New York City already).  I’m not interested in blaming all for the actions of a few.  BUT… I don’t know…. The whole thing STILL feels like a fresh wound to me though it was 9 years ago.  Still, the world is asking me, and it feels personal, asking us all as Americans to turn the other cheek.  To forgive and move on with a more positive attitude.  A practice I am typically and easily drawn to by my very nature.  But I’m honestly torn on this one.  I’m torn between honoring the principles this country was built on — religious freedom for all  — and honoring those who lost their lives by such senseless violence.  Building a mosque in that location is, at it’s core, merely a real estate deal. The land goes to the highest bidder, right?  But that doesn’t feel quite right to me and, apparently, to so many others.  Yes, it is legal to build a mosque at ground zero.  But is it right to do so? Ahhh…. I don’t know exactly why but it just feels wrong to me. It feels insensitive to the victims and inconsiderate to their loved ones.  That would be like allowing a serial rapist to rent a room in the same boarding house with his victims or permitting a mass murderer to build his home on the grave of those he killed.  It just feels wrong to me!  LEGAL, but morally wrong!

I forgive when an infraction is acknowledged. I turn the other cheek when I’m certain I’m not stupidly exposing myself to more harm by doing so. I lock my doors to prevent theft. I avoid dangerous alleys. I will take up arms to protect my loved ones. And I will defend myself and my loved ones against those that mean us harm… I feel the need to take these precautions now… STILL…I feel the need to protect my children, my loved ones, myself.  I do not feel safe. Rather I feel victimized, raped, murdered by the actions taken by the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers.  Perhaps my reaction is natural because it hit too close to home, too close to my loved ones.  These attacks directly endangered the lives of me and my family members.  Perhaps those of you who watched on television versus actually living that day up close and personal don’t have that same personal sense of fear.  Maybe you do.  Perhaps turning the other cheek doesn’t put your loved ones in direct jeopardy of getting smacked again… It does for me!  And perhaps you don’t have that sinking feeling that maybe you won’t be so “lucky” the next time. Perhaps those of you who are calling for me to lay down my arms never felt the pressing need to bear arms to protect your loved ones so directly.  You don’t live with the uneasy notion that you and your loved ones are in some one’s cross hairs, that you are an innocent target for those who mean to do you and your loved ones harm simply because you do not worship the same God.

So much happened that day that even the media dare not talk about. Those who were there — not like me, who watched from 1/2 a mile away — but those who were really THERE at Ground Zero… those who walked down the stairs and out of the buildings to survive, like 2 of my cousins; those NYPD, FDNY and independent heroes who risked their lives going into the buildings to help others get out…. THEY talk of the whirring sound of bodies falling through the air followed by the thud as they hit the ground like 200-lb raindrops falling all around them.  They talk about quickly coming to understand the sound and to take shelter so as not to get crushed by someone jumping to their death because that was better than burning to death. THEY speak of the roadway immediately in front of the Towers being slick with the blood and strewn with the body parts of the thousands of innocent people killed that day… such that it was hard to walk without slipping.  THEY talk of months of scouring conveyor belts filled with the rubbish taken from Ground Zero looking for personal items and human remains — a wallet, a wedding ring, a piece of skin, a bone, a tooth — to try and identify victims so their loved ones could gain some closure. Bury their fallen family member.  Those who perished cannot look forward.  Those who lived the nightmare can’t help but look back. 

They say, “History repeats itself.”  That’s a scary notion… but not so far fetched to me anymore!  We need to look back in order to change the future.  I am inwardly conflicted. Yes, I want  personal peace. But I will not turn the other cheek at the risk of endangering the lives of my loved ones… or yours.  Yes, I want world peace.  But not at the cost of freedom for us all!

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About Maggie

I'm a stay-at-home mother of 3 children including a 15-year-old daughter, the Old Soul, and 11-year-old identical twin boys who've been blessed with an extra 21st chromosome (aka: Down Syndrome). I happily spend my time doing all that I can do -- breaking the proverbial box wide open -- to foster my children's development and then sharing what I learn with you through this blog.
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10 Responses to Peace — September 11th and Turning the Other Cheek

  1. heather says:

    Excellent post and reminder of the horrific events that happened 9 years ago. I definitely had a new fear after 9/11 but don't still feel that fear. I think your experience is very different with being there. Witnessing the events first hand. That is something that will change your outlook FOREVER. I don't agree that we should leave this in the past. This is something we need to continually remember. I understand the controversy with the mosque. I can see both sides but just don't feel like that is what needs to be built on Ground Zero. The innocent victims deserve so much more!

  2. Molly says:

    So here's the thing. It's not just a mosque. It's basically a JCC (Jewish Community Center) for Muslims. It's a cultural center. The cultural center is not at ground zero. It is in the same neighborhood. But it is not build in eyeline of ground zero. As for hallowed ground? I would never argue that ground zero is hallowed. As a new yorker, you and I both know it is. But the neighborhood around it? Well, I don't know how hallowed I'd consider a strip club (also in the same neighborhood) or an off track betting facility (also within the same distance of ground zero as the Park 51 project aka the cultural center) http://daryllang.com/blog/4421 Here are some photos of the places near ground zero that are less classy than a cultural center. Honestly? I think a Muslim cultural center is FAR better than a strip club. Also, these people worship the same God as the hijackers but they are NOT the people who hurt us on September 11th. Imagine how they must feel, knowing that some crazy extremists did this? I would be mortified. But I would also hope that New York, the city I call my home, would be smart enough to realize that not every Muslim person is a terrorist. Just as I'm sure Christians felt dismay after Timothy McVeigh and the OKC Bombing. Also, there was a Muslim prayer room in the World Trade Center.These are New Yorkers. They were there when the WTC fell. These are our neighbors, our friends. I don't know about you, but I am NOT ready to condemn an entire religion based on the actions of a few extremists. I hate the extremists who flew into the world trade center and forever changed our world. But I do not hate all men and women who worship their god in a Mosque.

  3. MaggieMae says:

    Molly – I've seen these pics. I know the neighborhood. I don't HATE (your word, not mine) anyone. And I'm NOT interested in condemning (your word, again) any individual or group for their religious affiliations… nor for visiting a "Gentlemen's Club" for that matter. I speak only for myself, for my loved ones and for my children who can't YET speak up for themselves. I understand unwarranted prejudice. My children's disabilities often make them — and me — the subject of prejudiced stares, comments and treatment just for being members of a "different" population. As such I know and live discrimination every day. With regards to 9/11 — like my crusade for acceptance of people with disabilities — I'm interested in preserving the safety and emotional well-being of the survivors… ME. My family. The rescue workers who who are my family, friends and neighbors who will have to respond the next time. I'm interested, personally, in feeling safe and I'm interested in helping my loved ones not only to feel safe but to BE safe in a world where violence towards those who are different happens every day in very small and very BIG ways. THAT is what 9/11 was about. "They" lumped all of us New Yorkers into a group they HATED for being different from them. Then they perpetrated GREAT violence against us solely for that reason. I don't HATE anyone as a result of these crimes against us… but I'm not interested in being anyone's victim again.Mostly, my point was to share that for so many, the wounds inflicted on 9/11 are still fresh… not 9 years in the past. No more than the Holocaust, the Civil Rights movement or the institituionalization of people with disabilities is so far in the past for those who lived it then and for those who relive it every day as victims of the prejudice that still exists… on both sides of each situation.I wanted to share the convoluted nature of my evolving opinion. I listened to and read so many different points of view. I get it that the Muslims are entitled to build another Mosque if they want to. I agree that there's nothing wrong with having an MCC (Muslim community center) in NYC. I also would rather see a house of worship than a strip club. But why right there? Building it there just doesn't feel right TO ME and to so many others! It is, FOR ME, akin to throwing salt in fresh wounds. As the Mom of children with disabilities, I try to educate those who are uncomfortable with my boys. I'll say my piece, introduce my children and demonstrate that they're really just like everyone else — unique in their own way. I bring them out in the world to expose others to them and them to others to foster understanding. But when that doesn't work, I walk away. I don't build a school for children with disabilities in their front yard. Why would I want to do that? It's not good for anybody!

  4. Anonymous says:

    "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future."- Paul Boese

  5. Cindy says:

    This is a great post. I watched the events of 9/11 from our livingroom here in Seattle. I have mixed emotions about the mosque. Personally, if I had to choose today, I would say no to building a mosque at – or so close to – Ground Zero. It's just too soon.

  6. Molly thinks a Muslim cultural center is FAR better than a strip club. That's because she doesn't understand that all the unrest of muslims BEGINS at the mosque. The mosque is not a house of prayer, it's a house from which to plan how to prey on.

  7. Anonymous says:

    We are most like God when we forgive.

  8. Molly says:

    Maggie, I really liked what you said "THAT is what 9/11 was about. "They" lumped all of us New Yorkers into a group they HATED for being different from them. Then they perpetrated GREAT violence against us solely for that reason. "That's a really excellent point. and I really loved this. "As the Mom of children with disabilities, I try to educate those who are uncomfortable with my boys. I'll say my piece, introduce my children and demonstrate that they're really just like everyone else — unique in their own way. I bring them out in the world to expose others to them and them to others to foster understanding. But when that doesn't work, I walk away. I don't build a school for children with disabilities in their front yard. Why would I want to do that? It's not good for anybody!"This is a touchy topic. It always will be. But I'm glad to "know" people who I can discuss this with. Everyone else I have spoken to supports the project at that location, and quite honestly it is very interesting to get your viewpoint. I know a lot of people do not support the project at that location, and I feel like they rarely articulate it as well as you did. I hope we can disagree on this and still band together to fight the discrimination you and your gorgeous boys face. and I'm sorry you have to deal with it. They seem lke amazing kids. They (and you) don't deserve it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind. –J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known, pp.51-52

  10. starrlife says:

    Well my comment got eaten or something. Hmmmm….. Maggie Mae- wish you and yours well no matter what goes on at ground zero and the world! I said more than that but oh well…

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