Today was one of those pristinely beautiful late summer days in New York, a day much like this date nine years ago, weatherwise. The day of the attacks, I spent over an hour standing on the edge of the Major Deegan Expressway service road, watching the emergency vehicles speeding southward towards the poisonous plume of smoke and particulates rising in the south.
The following weeks were a blur- the following day, I stood for hours on line at the regional blood center, with many others who had believed that there would be survivors who would need transfusions. The following weeks, there were memorial services for the fallen (I'll never forget the anguished look on the face of a friend who had lost her brother, one of those guys who, through smarts and sweat, had it all- an athlete, a professional, part-owner of a successful family pub- a brilliant guy from a brilliant family). There were conversations with an old family friend who had gotten all of his co-workers out of the building (controverting the building management's directive to stay put) and was suffering from "survivor guilt". There was work- my office handled Workers' Compensation claims, and we jumped through hoops to process the influx in death claims- each file represented a loss (one particular one, the death of an EMT- a beautiful single mother who lived across town from me, still haunts me from time to time). Even years after the attacks, people are dying- last year, I went to the wake of a guy I had coached as a kid- a new father, dead at thirty of lung cancer resulting from exposure to particulates. Visits to a friend's apartment in lower Manhattan involved a walk past the still-burning pile of rubble. There was an unreal quality to it all, a dull ache that lingered, a feeling of being under siege. I'd take the "1" train from 238th St in the Bronx to Times Square, and there would be armed National Guardsmen in the Times Square Station- of course, this wasn't genuine "security" because there was noone scrutinizing the 238th St station. Like most New Yorkers, these were among the worst days of my life (I had had similar horrid experiences- a friend of mine was killed in the "Lockerbie Bombing" while I was in high school, and a friend from grammar school had been killed while on the local police force, gunned down half a mile from the house he grew up in).
Like almost all Americans, I was enraged by the terrorist attacks, but I realized that the perpetrators were a small sect of fanatic fundamentalists, and did not represent the majority of Moslems. Two of my dearest friends and mentors are Moslems, and they were just as shocked and horrified by the attacks as anyone. When I think that anyone would assign culpability to these men because of their religious background, I am appalled. I honestly thought there would be more of an anti-Moslem backlash in this country, and, looking back, would say that the one thing that the odious George W. Bush got right was speaking out against such a backlash.
Now, nine years later, the backlash comes, led by self-aggrandizing, publicity-seeking lunatics (I refuse to mention them by name- not wishing to give them even a shred of recognition) and cynical political opportunists. The conflation of all Moslems with Wahabists in general, and Al-Qaeda in particular, strikes me as a desparate, despicable ploy to gain advantage in the current midterm elections, an attempt to discredit a President with a foreign-sounding name by insinuating that he is in cahoots with terrorists. The one individual I'll single out for especial scorn is Peter King, the Republican representative from Long Island. On the one hand, he's playing procedural games holding up relief for first-responders, on the other hand, he's making inflammatory statements about innocent Moslems seeking equal treatment under the First Amendment. King's dubious history with the Irish Republican Army only compounds the odious nature of his bigoted jeremiad. If anyone had told King that there were too many Roman Catholic churches in the UK, King would, rightfully, have called out the bigotry of such a person.
To cut short my now-rambling screed, I'll sum my opinion up succinctly. All Moslems are not terrorists. Lumping innocent Moslems in with terrorists is bigoted and counterproductive. The current "controversy" over the proposed Cordoba House/Park51 project is a cynical ploy to stoke anti-Moslem fear, and to portray the President as a threat to white Christian America. Finally, the shit's got to stop before some serious damage is done to our society.