NYC’s 9/11: A time to remember [Archives:2004/776/Viewpoint]

September 27 2004

I had the chance last week to stand near ground zero in New York City, and imagine the grief, the horror, and feelings of Americans screaming and running from the terror after the horrible attacks of 9/11 three years ago. I insisted on coming to see how the place is, how it was, and interviewing a number of people who remember the attack as if it were yesterday.
Looking at the scene on TV, and looking at it in person, provides two very different views. In the first case, from the comfort of your home, lying on a bed or a sofa, you see live pictures of the bodies of dead people, victims throwing themselves from the upper floors of the towers, smoke covering every living and unliving thing in the area, but that is all. But when you are there, you truly feel the devastating impact of the explosion, you live the memories, you see the roses on the floor, thrown in memory of loved ones lost in the attack, and you thank God for not being there to witness the horror – not knowing if you'd make it safe home again.
I felt my body shaking as I approached, and I recalled the old snapshots that I had seen on TV. This was the exact location that underwent the attack of that day, and here I was, walking near the place that on September the 11th 2001 was called 'Hell on Earth'. I had tears in my eyes when I saw pictures of the horrific attack, and the devastation it caused to more than two thousand innocent people. I wanted to scream saying, “this is not Islam and these are not Muslims” but I am sure it was said over and over again.
It was the first time that I could sympathize with writers of letters to the editor expressing bad words and harshly denouncing Muslims and Arabs. They had their time of emotional intensity, anger, frustration, and most important of all, wonder. They asked “Why?”, what were the reasons behind this attack?
It is amazing to see that even after three years since the attack, not many people have been able to figure out a clear answer to that question. Some say that those people wanted to destroy the free world, others claimed they were brainwashed or hypnotized. But very few investigated thoroughly into the real reasons behind such a possible attack.
I myself (being a Muslim from Yemen, the so-called ancestral home of Osama bin Laden), would have failed to find a fulfilling answer if any of those watching the site of ground-zero had asked me. I would have given some analysis, but I am sure that it would not have been sufficient.
I know there are thousands upon thousands researching the motives and reasons, and analyzing why it happened. Some have even gone so far as to learn the whole 'Arabic' language to know more about the way attackers think. But I believe they will remain clueless until they can put themselves into the shoes of an attacker, and can visualize the sort of hatred that person must have against the USA, to commit such an act and sacrifice his life. That task won't be easy, neither for me, nor for anyone else. Being a Muslim Arab won't make it any easier. In fact, knowing very well that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony that forbids the killing of innocents even during the combat of major war, makes it even more difficult to comprehend and believe that it was based on religions motives.
It remains a question to be asked over and over again, but time may be the only way we could now find an answer.
Until the final answer comes, we will see NYC's 9/11 as a time to remember for decades to come.