Tragedy. It is one of the most powerful unifying forces. Grief has a way of bringing people together. I had an entire side of family who had been unrecognizable to me. I hadn’t seen any of them in over a decade…until my father died. It wasn’t until then that we came together. We held hands and connected around a hospital bed filled with tragedy.
On September 11,2001, two hijacked planes destroyed the Twin Towers, murdering thousands of people. Everyone across the country came together with tears in their eyes, and mourned. People held hands, because the grief and shock were too much for one person to handle.
But, now, nine years later, on September 11, 2010, as I walked through the streets of New York City, I witnessed a place overtaken by hate and intolerance instead of one that had been able to rise above these destructive qualities.
As anyone who’s not completely out of touch with the world knows, a mosque and community center is being built near Ground Zero. This has caused a great uproar amongst those who believe this is insensitive because the terrorists worshiped Islam. I have encountered much hatred toward the Muslim community over the last few weeks. I’ve heard people claim that all Muslims are terrorists, or that Islam is an evil religion. It was all the same on this year’s 9/11 in NYC.
As I walked parallel to the site where once stood the Twin Towers, there was a sea of protesters, and my eyes immediately scanned them all: There were signs that proclaimed, “The Qur’an is a lie!” One was proudly held high by a 30-something year old man, whose face was scowled, contorted by anger. There was an older man with a white beard directly in front of me. He was preaching the word of his god, and claimed, “Islam is evil!” His lower lip quivered from the magnitude of his anger. He was wearing a black jacket, which read, “Cry to God” on the left sleeve.
His message was clear: All who don’t believe in the Christian God should cry to him for forgiveness.
“They should burn the Qur’an!” I hear somewhere near me, but as I look around, everyone is shouting.
I stop for a moment. My eyes focus on Ground Zero right across the street. I study the construction replacing what once stood there. I see an American flag blowing in the wind on top of some metal beams.
This should have been a place of mourning and respect for perished lives.
But as another protester shouted at the top of his lungs, “No mosque!” I realized that this site had become infested with hate. This was the ultimate disgrace to every single person who had been murdered by the actions of terrorists.
Those terrorists struck at America through the fall of the Towers, because they hate us. They hate the way we live, and what we stand for. They hate the major religions in this country. They believed in Islam, sure, but were also radicals with murder in their hearts. Islam didn’t put that evil intention in them. Their hate did.
So, how tragically ironic that nine years after religious intolerance murdered thousands of people, we are fighting it with religious intolerance.
Just like how those terrorists hate Americans as a whole for just being Americans, these anti-mosque people hate all Muslims because of the actions of a few. An entire Muslim population is being blamed.
One Muslim man spoke to my friends and I about how afraid he was when the planes struck the Towers, because his daughter worked near the site. His words came forth from his thin lips, as tears filled his eyes when he described the events of that day. He called Osama Bin Laden “an evil monkey” who shouldn’t even be associated with Islam because his radicalism doesn’t represent the religion at all.
This man looked around at the protesters around us, and wondered why he couldn’t be free to live as who he is…especially since 9/11 shook him up just as bad anyone else in this country- Muslim or not.
But, it wasn’t just the anti-mosque protesters that had me yearning for a coexistence. The pro-mosque people were in the wrong, as well. They displayed just as much hate as their counterparts. They were shouting threats, waving fist and name-calling.
I stopped to listen to one pro-mosque supporter rant on about the intolerance of the protesters. She was filled with good intentions, but was lost to her hate for the other side.
“What would Jesus do? Jesus would tell the [anti-mosque protesters] to shut the #$%& up!,” She, too, was filled with so much anger. She was out there to fight against hate, yet, embodied it herself. And this from a self-proclaimed “Buddhist!” She had no problem dropping obscenities as children walked by.
Finally, there were the other groups who decided to come out on this day of mourning to sell their messages. The anti-abortion people yelled at the pro-abortion people, and vice versa. The “Truthers” came out, and yelled that our government was really behind 9/11, and all who don’t believe this are idiots. It’s as if the cap had come off, and every single person there drank from the bottle of hate.
I’m mixed- black and white, and I feel like this represents a union between people of different races. In a way, I yearn for our entire nation to become mixed, and not just racially. It would truly be something great for different religions, nationalities, political parties to mix it up a bit, and find a way to coexist.
Yet, we have proven our inability to rise above our differences, and get along. Even on a day of such great mourning, we directed hate at one another instead of holding hands. Is this how we should remember the lives lost on 9/11? By terrorizing each other?
The lives lost by terrorists on 9/11 should be honored by all of the unique and different beliefs held by people in this world living in a coexistence. They should be honored by peace, and not the hate that not only created Ground Zero, but still dwells there to this day.