Muslims, with their religion of peace, didn’t crash those planes into the twin towers on Sept. 11. It was terrorists, filled with hate.
IN our Bothell community is a vibrant neighborhood of Indian Sikhs. They gather at a brand-new temple four blocks from our home. On my morning walks, we wave and greet each other; me dressed in sweats and a T-shirt, the Indian women in flowing colorful saris. But, one day I noticed bright red graffiti scrawled on their sparkling white temple.
“Muslims Get Out!”
I was shocked and embarrassed that our friendly neighborhood would treat anyone in such a malicious way. What bothered me, too, was that these haters didn’t even know this was a Sikh temple and not a Muslim mosque.
This unsettling event reminded me of Sept. 11, 2001, and my own reaction at that time.
Shortly after the horrific destruction of 9/11, my friend Carol and I met at an outdoor Seattle restaurant. En route, the news broadcaster announced Muslims were planning to build a mosque a stone’s throw from the site of the collapsed twin towers.
“I can’t believe it. Muslims want to build a mosque near the remains of the World Trade Center,” I spouted, even before we ordered.
“What’s wrong with that?” asked Carol.
“Are you kidding? Why can’t they build their mosque uptown!” I said.
Hate has no place in our efforts to live in peace with our neighbors, whether we’re in a small town like Bothell or a big city like New York.”
“Why can’t they build it wherever they want?” replied Carol.
Now, shaking, I responded, “Because they knocked down the World Trade Center, murdering thousands of innocent people! I’m a New Yorker. You just don’t have that emotional connection.”
And so it went … a conversation ending with anger, no conclusion and ruining a perfectly good summer’s day lunch.
On Sept. 11th, 2001, shocked by such evil, I couldn’t and wouldn’t differentiate from a group of terrorists, who called themselves Muslims, and Muslims who follow the peaceful religion of Islam.
My emotions ran rampant as I desperately wanted to be in New York City with fellow New Yorkers who felt the razor-sharp, painful arrow piercing their hearts.
In September 2002, my Staten Island Curtis High School classmates celebrated our 40th reunion in New York City. We tearfully paid our respects at Ground Zero. Through the dirt, dust and noise of machinery, I envisioned 3,000 souls rising above on their journey to heaven. Silently, we walked across the street to St. Paul’s Chapel.
Posters, photos, caps, T shirts and signs from people all over the world symbolized love, respect and honor for the dead. People of all nationalities, creeds and walks of life, becoming one in an ocean of heartbreak, disgust and disbelief, hung mementos on that old wrought iron fence surrounding St. Paul’s.
It became a time of reflection and a time to revisit my roots.
I grew up on Staten Island in the 1940s through the 60s. The World Trade Center did not exist. The Empire State Building, where I worked as a twenty-something, ruled the land. On our dead-end dirt road, our neighbors consisted of an editor and his family, a ham radio operator and his wife, a Jewish doctor and his concert pianist wife and daughter, an Italian undertaker and his family, an elderly intellectual couple, and a black family. We were a mix of humanity who looked out for each other.
These were neighbors, summertime pick-up-game softball players and fellow snow shovelers during winter storms.
In 1994, my family and I visited the World Trade Center for the first time. We even made it to the rooftop where I couldn’t help but notice the peace and quiet that accompanied such a high altitude.
On the day of the luncheon with my friend Carol, my New York pride clouded my ability to reason. I didn’t hate Muslims but didn’t know where or how to channel my boiling rage. The religion of Islam proved an easy target.
Carol was right. Muslims, with their religion of peace, didn’t crash into those buildings on September 11th. They were certainly entitled to build their new mosque wherever they wished. Terrorists, filled with hate, murdered the thousands of innocents that day. Hate stops with us, and with education. Hate has no place in our efforts to live in peace with our neighbors, whether we’re in a small town like Bothell or a big city like New York.