Tolerance, understanding can heal 9/11 wounds

Ten years have passed since Sept. 11 — 10 long years.

But time has not healed all wounds. Not yet at least. As I watched somber memorial tributes this past week, the images of burning towers collapsing in a roar of grey smoke took me right back to that fateful day in September.

The emotions were just as raw — just as real. It was as though seconds had passed, not years.

To make sense of things, I did a bit of digging and unearthed the journal I had kept during the second half of 2001.

It was a humbling experience, to say the least. All of the biggest concerns of my 7th-grade self were laid bare before me: Would I like my teachers that year? Would they like me? And, most important for me at the time — what would Lord Voldemort’s return in “Goblet of Fire” mean for the rest of the Wizarding World?

Little did I know, my innocence was about to be shattered. Concerns that seemed so big at the time, from classes to nasally-challenged super-villains, now seemed small and inconsequential. The attack on our country left me with much graver concerns about the safety of my friends and loved ones living in big cities. Would there be another attack? Would Chicago be the next target?

I did not write anything in my journal for September 11, 2001. I must have had too many questions pressing on my mind to write anything that made sense. I needed time to gather my thoughts.

Still, snippets of that day stand out: First hearing the news of the attack on the radio, then watching the day’s events unfold with my classmates, and later, returning home to watch the continuing coverage that evening.

Rather than a continuous time line of the days following, those memories are now like snapshots, frozen in time.

Some of the details have grown dim. But while memories fade with each passing year, even the palest ink from my journal entries remains.

In the weeks that followed, those entries were filled with anger. I wanted to see those responsible for the cowardly acts of 9/11 brought to justice. I wanted that justice to be slow and drawn out — not quick and painless — so that the terrorists, if their craven hearts even allowed it, would feel a hint of the suffering they caused to an unsuspecting nation and innocent people.

With time, the initial flare of anger slowly began to fade and I turned to my journal entries as the best way to honor the memories of those who had lost their lives. One entry in particular, listed as October 18, 2001, stood out to me:

“People are starting to talk about what is going to happen to Ground Zero.

“Some want to start rebuilding the World Trade Center as soon as all the rubble is cleared away. They say it will be a sign of American resilience. They say it will send the terrorists a message that they have not won: America will rise from the ashes and be stronger because of it.

“Others say there should be a permanent museum so that we will never forget that day. They want to include names of the dead, pictures of courageous firefighters and police officers running into the burning buildings and messages of hope for future generations.

“These are both nice ideas. I can understand how powerful the symbols would be. But I have a different idea: Build a mosque.

“Build a mosque to send a message to the world that we are not at war with Islam. Let it stand tall and proud so that the tip of its minaret reaches toward the heavens, just like the flame lifted by the Statue of Liberty, in whose distant shadow the mosque will stand.

“Next to the mosque, build a church. No, not next to the mosque. Let the two buildings stand connected to each other. Let them share a wall to symbolize the shared fate of both groups of people.

“And, next to the mosque and church, build a synagogue, a temple, a shrine. Arrange them all in a circle that looks inward. Place in the center a fountain, inscribed with the names of those lost, where children of all faiths can soak their dusty feet, while their parents seek shade under trees gathered from every corner of the earth.

“Let the site remember the dead, while celebrating the living — and all that we have to live for. And most of all, let it send a simple but powerful message: Never again shall religion be used as a tool of hate, to weaken and divide, but instead a tool of mutual uplift.”

They say that time is the great healer. If only that were true.

Time may dull the pain we feel, but it will never completely heal the wounds that still linger from that dark September day. Only a renewed sense of tolerance, openness and mutual understanding will do that.

_Jason is a senior in Engineering and Business._