By Phil Hotsenpiller
On September 11, 2001, my wife and I were on a flight departing from La Guardia bound for Los Angeles. As we flew past the Twin Towers we noticed one of the towers was on fire. We did not know at the time that this was the beginning of a terrorist attack that would forever change our worldview. En route to L.A., we were informed of the necessity to land in Detroit. As we neared the runway, still unaware of what had taken place, a passenger behind us turned on her cell phone and shockingly announced that the Twin Towers had been attacked by terrorists.
Like so many Americans, many thoughts filled our heads upon hearing this news. Most concerning was the safety of our 14-year-old daughter, who at the time attended a high school in a bedroom community of New York. We feared for her safety and were unable to get a message through to her for several hours. Though she was thankfully safe, thousands of others were not so fortunate. Among them was my daughter’s best friend’s dad was a New York firefighter who bravely lost his life. His remains were never found — they remain on hallowed ground.
The date 9/11 is forever ingrained in the hearts and minds of the world. We are different because of that event. New York – especially ground zero – is different because of that event – not only physically, but also spiritually. For many, the ground zero site is their loved ones burial grounds.
Emotions surrounding this site are strong and run deeper than decisions by planning commissions or the comments of politicians. Never has that been so greatly witnessed than in the last few weeks as the debate over whether to allow the building of a mosque has arisen. As opponents and supporters alike started throwing out words like “religious freedom” and “tolerance,” it should be remembered that these principles are exactly what America was founded upon.
There are already more than 100 mosques in the boroughs of New York City. How many of these support the tenets of Sharia law, which gives place to violence and is not content to co-exist but rather seeks to impose and control the society in which is finds itself? Would supporters also be willing to support a memorial to 9/11 across from the mosque in Mecca? I can’t speak for them but I think not! Our freedoms are being used as a weapon against us.
Tolerance, which is a two-way street called respect, is an important attribute – important to our country, and also important to my Christian heritage. But, tolerance without wisdom and discernment will breed more violence and a lack of common ground. If the Muslim community is serious about building bridges then they will respect the place that has been consecrated by the sacrifice of thousands of Americans.