By Eleanor Ransburg
Hard to think about it without tears filling your eyes, and impossible to forget where you were when you first heard the news.
I was already at work in the newsroom at the Press-Register in Mobile, Ala. The TV was on, as usual, and the anchor broke into the morning cable news show to say that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers.
My first thought: “How in the world could that happen? There are no planes that fly over lower Manhattan, only the occasional helicopter or something.”
And as I sat there looking at the TV, listening to them say that it wasn’t a little private plane or small corporate jet but maybe a big passenger jet … right as I’m staring at the screen, KA-BLAM ? The second plane hit the second tower right in front of my eyes. I thought I was going to pass out.
I knew right away it was no accident, that it was a terrorist attack. It hit me with the force of a body blow. I was speechless with shock, and then angry. Very angry. I was surprised at the fury and outrage I felt (and still feel).
I had already lost my brother-in-law in the terrorist attack at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia back in 1996 … plus, my mom in Shreveport had thought that my brother was traveling that day for his job, so she thought he was in the air somewhere, perhaps even on one of those planes that had crashed in New York or Washington or Pennsylvania, and she panicked a little. But he eventually called to let everyone know he was NOT traveling at all. It was a HUGE relief, but I was still overcome with shock and sadness watching people falling to their deaths from those windows, and then seeing both of the towers crumble to the ground.
Surreal. Unreal. Awful.
Manhattan is my favorite place to visit. I’ve been to the top of the towers and have at least one photo of myself up there. I still cannot believe they’re gone. I saw that awful scar in the earth just once in these past 10 years, and it broke my heart.
Tears have been coming all week, just hearing the talk about the memorial ceremonies, seeing news clips about the newly planted trees and the massive fountains at Ground Zero, seeing those thousands of names engraved around the edges.
It truly was a sad, horrible, awful day … but I still praise God for the comfort that only He can give to those 3,000 grieving families. More than half of them never even got a body back to bury. Their loved ones were incinerated and obliterated, as if they’d never even existed.
Ten long years and still, I weep.
The anger and outrage are still there too. It never burned as hot as it did last summer, when the controversy over the proposed mosque at Ground Zero hit critical mass. Quite a few people were surprised by the bitter battle, but I wasn’t.
Contrary to the bleatings of President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, we know the fight over that 13-story Islamic cultural center is not about religious freedom. There are already two mosques in Lower Manhattan and no one is saying that Muslims don’t have the right to build another one. But opponents do feel that putting such a big mosque so close to Ground Zero so soon after the attacks would be horribly insensitive to the victims’ families. After all, their loved ones suffered horrible deaths at the hands of Muslim extremists.
What kind of cleric would want to rub salt in that wound?
“Ground Zero shouldn’t be about promoting Islam,” said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. “It’s the place where war was declared on us as Americans.”
To use that space for Muslim outreach, he argued, is “the worst form of misjudgment.”
He also said: “Park51, Cordoba House or whatever they are calling it should not be built, not because it is not their right to do it, but because it is not RIGHT to do it.”
I couldn’t agree more. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
Alice Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham was part of the group of passengers who fought back on United Flight 93, said: “They have a legal right to build there. What we are talking about is the moral right.
All along, the mosque’s developers have struggled to raise money for the project. Now we learn that they have applied for $5 million in federal funds from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. The agency was set up after Sept. 11 to help rebuild the area.
Can you imagine using taxpayer dollars for this thing?!
According to the grant application, the money would not go to any religious services but would “fund social service programs for all the residents of Lower Manhattan such as domestic violence prevention, Arabic and other foreign language classes, programs and services for homeless veterans, two multicultural art exhibits and immigration services.”
The 95-year-old St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which stood at the base of the towers and was destroyed on Sept. 11, is stuck in red tape and still can’t rebuild, just hopelessly trapped in bureaucratic limbo … yet here we are, considering using federal funds to help a mosque!?
Even if our national coffers weren’t drowning in red ink, can you seriously imagine anyone approving such a grant? I can’t.
But let’s just say they do manage to scrape together enough money somehow to break ground. Are there any construction companies in the Tri-State area that would help build it? I seriously doubt it.
One survivor’s relative asked: “Why would we let them build a mosque over a cemetery?”
And that really is what it is. Fewer than 300 intact bodies were found at the World Trade Center site. In the 10 years since, only about 1,600 victims have been identified.
As recently as last summer, nine years after the attacks, bone fragments were still being found on rooftops and in manholes. In June 2010, the discovery of 72 human remains was announced after workers sifted through 800 cubic yards of debris from Ground Zero and underneath adjacent roads.
Nearly 1,100 victims remain unidentified.
It’s no wonder that so many victims’ families view the site as hallowed ground, and why so many Americans still feel so much sadness, anger and outrage over those attacks.
I heard Democratic strategist Bob Beckel say the other day: “Look, at some point, I know it’s sensitive here in New York and probably New Jersey, but we have to get over 9/11.”
That day, Mr. Beckel, is NOT today.
Sources: The Associated Press, the Boston Globe, Mobile Press-Register, gothamist.com, dickmorris.com, charismanews.com, World Net Daily, newsbusters.org and the website 911research.wtc7.net.