Monday, September 13, 2010

On 9/11, US stands divided at Ground Zero

who joined the anti-mosque crowd of about 1,500 after attending the Ground Zero
First came the tears, the solemn bugle call and the recital of the names of the dead. Then came the chants, speeches and angry shouts. It was a September 11 anniversary unlike any other. For the first time, politics and rage were an overt part of New York's commemoration of the anniversary of the attacks, an occasion marked in the past only by rituals of sorrow. A morning ceremony on Saturday in which relatives of the victims placed flowers in a reflecting pool and read the names of their loved ones gave way to an afternoon of protests and counter-demonstrations over a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. Some called the rallies a disgraceful intrusion. Indeed, some of the people attending the protests came from far away, and appeared to be drawn only by a deep-rooted dislike of Muslims or passion for liberal causes.

But the throngs included an ample number of 9/11 mourners, too, who joined the anti-mosque crowd of about 1,500 after attending the Ground Zero memorial ceremony. "A lot of people say it's a day of solemn remembrance. But for us, every day is a solemn day," said Al Santora, who lost his firefighter son, Christopher, in the attacks, and attended the rally with his wife, four daughters and four grandchildren. For a few hours on Saturday morning, the political and cultural furore over whether the proposed Islamic center and mosque belongs so close to the trade center site mostly gave way to the somber anniversary ceremony and pleas from elected officials for religious tolerance. At the other September 11 attack sites, as at Ground Zero, elected leaders sought to remind Americans of the acts of heroism that marked a Tuesday in 2001 and the national show of unity that followed. President Barack Obama, appealing to an unsettled nation from the Pentagon, declared that the United States could not "sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust." "As Americans we are not - and never will be - at war with Islam," the president said. "It was not a religion that attacked us that September day - it was al- Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion."

In Shanksville, Pensylvania, first lady Michelle Obama and her predecessor, Laura Bush, spoke at a public event together. At the rural field where the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93 lost their lives, Obama said, "A scar in the earth has healed," and Bush said "Americans have no division" on this day. Near the World Trade Center site, a memorial to the 2,752 who died there played out mostly as it had each year since 2001. Bells were tolled to mark the times of impact of the two hijacked jets and the times the twin towers collapsed.
There were also isolated reports of Quran desecrations on the anniversary. 


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