Thursday, August 26, 2010

51 Park

Although I didn't personally lose anyone on September 11th, 2001, I did lose a piece of myself.  A sense of safety and security, which I had been afforded in my position as an American citizen, was stripped from me that day, and I will never forget the reluctance I felt to close my eyes that night, and for many subsequent nights, because all I could see were the towers falling, falling, falling.  My husband and I had spent our anniversary, the previous week, in Battery Park and were so impressed with the liveliness of the neighborhood in an area known in earlier years as purely the Financial District.  That Labor Day weekend, it was a hub of activity with recreational ballfields in use, cyclists and families filling the pathways and a real sense of community present.  Beautiful.

The days following the terrorist attacks remain, for me, a blur of silent skies and roads filled with trucks pulling huge generators southbound.  I've met people in subsequent years who were much more directly involved with the events and their aftermath, NYC firefighters who can't sleep unless they pass out from alcohol consumption, individuals who lost loved ones, and I've imagined on many occasions the void thousands of families have suffered and my heart breaks for them.

I don't often delve into the political here, but there's this situation which keeps escalating that I'm struggling with - this whole 51 Park thing in New York City, aka the Muslim Mosque or Community Center.  I think I understand the argument that just because "they" can build it  "they" shouldn't because it is disrespectful.  Build it someplace else, opponents say, a location not sacred, somewhere more appropriate - 2 full city blocks away from the perimeter of the World Trade Center site is not distant enough.  Permitting an extremist training camp (really?!) to be built in the shadow of the towers is perceived as an affront to families still raw from their losses nearly a decade later.  My concern, however, about what is being taught is directed more towards what our politicians, our media and our religious and educational institutions, are teaching our citizens.

Yesterday an intoxicated man entered a Mosque in Queens shouting racial insults and urinated on sacred prayer rugs.  Earlier in the week a 21 year-old man in NYC repeatedly stabbed a cab driver after confirming that he was, in fact, Muslim.  Isn't it possible that the  the construction of a community center, which is to be available to all, could improve relations rather than contribute to this escalation of violence we are currently experiencing?  Wouldn't this new building project be a positive contribution to NYC's economic woes?  And, can't we , as a nation, as a community, try to understand that an anti-Muslim stance benefits no one - other than the extremists grasping for validation for their views?  And the politicians trying to corrupt our intelligence by promoting fear as an ideology, of course.

I can't say it any better than this, but I certainly am receptive to hearing your perspective.


  1. There is a fundamental, indefeasible separation of church and state in this country. It is enshrined in our Constitution. That's it. End of story. This Islamic community center can be constructed anywhere they would like to build it. It being built near Ground Zero should be no more offensive than the building of a Roman Catholic church next to a gay and lesbian community center. All religions commit spiritual violence and untold harmful acts, but no one has any say where these groups are allowed to construct their spaces. That's how it works in this country. Period.

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  3. I moved to NYC when I was 18 for college and lived there for 18 years. I worked across the street from the WTC and used to meet my then BF (now husband) on the plaza for lunch several times a week. We were out of town for a funeral on 9/11 (but returned on 9/13, soon enough to breathe the ground zero fumes for weeks afterward). We were lucky not to lose anyone we knew in the attacks (though it was days before i was able to confirm that no close friends were caught there during their morning commute to our offices). It was a horrible, terrifying, sad time to be in the city, seeing flyers of lost loved ones plastering every tree, bus shelter, and telephone pole.

    As JT wrote, the Constitution has the final say here. The idea that a certain group of American citizens should have their rights curtailed to protect the feelings of some other group of americans is a horrible, disgusting, anti-american and anti-new york idea. I can understand someone who lost a loved one feeling that way (though i still think they are wrong) but have no respect for anyone else who would advocate stopping park 51 from being built. I am for upholding the Constitution.

  4. Thank you for your post and the comments. Thank Goodness there are reasonable, thoughtful people out there. All I hear in the media is how awful it would be to let THEM do this to our Sacred ground. As you noted 2 blocks is forever in the city, and it doesn't matter anyway because in America we let people build churches wherever they want.