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9/11 memorials overshadowed by tensions of proposed cultural center

By Jordan Glander, Contributing Writer

On a day that serves as a solemn memorial to the lives lost during the 9/11 attacks, New Yorkers and Americans alike come together to remember the date that changed our nation. It was a quiet, sunny morning in a city typically characterized by sensory overload, and a gentleness seemed to pervade on this Saturday morning.

The official ceremony was open only to families who lost loved ones in the attack and readers who were participating in the ceremony. Much of the area around the World Trade Center site was gated off by NYPD; the general public could only get as close as the corner of Liberty and Broadway. Even nine years later, security was still heightened. 

As always, the ceremony began with a ‘4 moments of silence' at 8:46 am to commemorate the times when each plane hit and each tower fell. Throngs of people quietly bowed their heads to remember those moments. Next, the list of names that perished in the tragedy was read off one by one, by speakers and family members followed by poems and speeches for the occasion.

Not all was quiet and solemn though as many people were there to protest against the mosque that has caused so much controversy since its inception. The proposed location is at Park Place Avenue, a couple blocks north of the WTC site. The proposed site was guarded by local police.

 Demonstrators held dueling rallies around both this site and the 9/11 memorial site, protesting whether or not the mosque should be built. Those in favor of the proposed development reiterated the constitutional right to freely practice one's religion in this country, whereas those who opposed it claimed the mosque was insensitive to the victims of 9/11 and believe that it should be moved somewhere else.

 Bill Steyert, an attendant at the memorial and a supporter for the mosque said, "this is another test of our willingness to allow people their rights in this country without having to be submitted to bigotry and intolerance; this is not new to this country, these events go all the way back to the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth Rock."

 This is a struggle that has dominated American history since its beginning. Others however, disagree. Josephine Strenta, a widow of one of the victims of the attacks said, "Its disrespectful to the victims, this is holy ground now. There are a lot of people lost here and they should understand that. Build it ten blocks away, twenty blocks away just not anywhere in the vicinity; we're not saying Muslims don't have the right to pray, just not here."

 Whether the mosque will eventually be built at the proposed site or not, the issue of the constitutional right to freedom of religion versus the sensitivities surrounding 9/11 will most likely continue until the ultimate decision is made.

Many feel that the mosque has only heightened the tensions and aggravated socio-political affairs. Recently, the outcry of a Florida pastor to hold a burning of the Quran instigated uproar in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. The pastor made a trip to New York City on Friday to visit the imam in charge of the Islamic center project. The burning was eventually called off. It seems that this year's memorial was muddled with clamor and controversy.

 The museum for the memorial which opens in 2012 will give visitors a new perspective of the World Trade Center site and will give a new understanding to the events of September 11th. The construction of the buildings and the museum is still underway but progress towards completion of the site can be seen every day.

Nine years after, the tragedy still lives within many people's minds; but the memories of the event become more placid with each successive year as time goes by. The date will continue to serve as a testimony to the horrific acts committed that day, but the emotions that we embolden to it will continue to change in the future. 

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