Viewpoint — September 11

Ten years have passed. Many Americans remember turning on their televisions to see their land being attacked, and buildings falling to the ground and smoldering. Their hearts ached for those families who lost their loved ones. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost that day, and it shook America awake and took away the sense that it was untouchable.

Americans have adopted the phrase “never forget” to stir those feelings and memories of when it happened. Some remember where they were, what they were doing and who they were with when they tuned in to any television station to see what had become of New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Even in the smallest ways, Americans still see the effects of 9/11. A plane can’t be boarded without taking your shoes off. “War on Terror” has become part of many Americans’ vernacular. Ground Zero has become a constant site of remembrance for those lives lost. According to a new study, those firefighters exposed to the toxic air at Ground Zero on 9/11 have a 19 percent higher chance of developing cancer than those colleagues who weren’t exposed.

The emotions evoked by 9/11 were numerous: sadness, terror, a feeling of loss and grief for human beings who might be strangers. As the weeks passed on, there was an overwhelming feeling of unity, patriotism, tolerance and love for others that seemed to prevail. Immense tragedy brought many together and created a sense of oneness as American citizens, rather than divisions of class, religion, race or political affiliation.

Except for one group who felt the sting of hatred from those who were ignorant or simply scared.

Many Muslim citizens in America were faced with intolerance after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Because of their religion, they were made to feel guilty by association.

Even 10 years later, this intolerance hasn’t diminished for some. The Center for American Progress is campaigning to end the hatred and spread of misinformation about Islam and the Muslim culture. They’ve named the anti-Islam agenda on the Internet and in propaganda campaigns “Islamaphobia.”

The Center for American Progress has found that more than $40 million has gone to fund this message, which is being spread through networks like media campaigns and grassroots organizations.

Other issues over the years concerning Muslim-American citizens include the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy. In 2010, an Islamic community center was planned to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero on private property in a building that used to be a Burlington Coat Factory. This caused a huge backlash from many, and has resulted in protest and campaigning against construction of the building.

Today there is still a debate on whether it is appropriate to build the community center near the Ground Zero site. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, put it best.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans,” said Bloomberg on the building of the community center and mosque. “We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.”

Never forget that innocent people were killed that day. Honor those lives lost by treating other human beings with respect and common decency. Don’t treat words like “Islam” and “Muslim” like they’re dirty words. Patriot Day is an opportunity to remember that feeling of oneness and inclusion, and practice them still. Be proud of the opportunity America offers, and embrace the diversity of its people. Always remember that there is no mold for what an American looks like. Never forget.