9/11 Widow: The Media Duped Us
The first time I heard about the Park51 Islamic community center was on May 6, 2010, when I received the following e-mail from a New York TV reporter:
“I’m doing story today about the proposed mosque project at the WTC site. I am interviewing the developers but I am also trying to look for family members who think building a mosque at the site is a bad idea.”
“Bad idea” — that was a bit leading, wasn’t it? I always thought journalists were supposed to be objective, and yet, here we were, the “victims of 9/11,” being prodded for our outrage. An hour later, another e-mail arrived, this time from CNN. The language was more measured: “As a family member of someone who was killed in the attacks on 9/11, what do you think about the decision to construct a mosque this close to Ground Zero?”
There is therapy in speaking up, in feeling that you are not simply small and helpless in these giant matters. Each issue presents a chance for small triumph inside an abyss of loss. Maybe we can get this even if we can never get what we really want. Because what we really want is still to have our loved ones back.
But here is what’s been lost in this Park51 controversy: We are not experts, we are victims. We deserve to speak up, we need to speak up to acknowledge the pain and suffering, but we were never meant to be leaders in a national debate. Because the only thing we really know intimately is grief. The only thing we really know is what it feels like to lose a loved one in 9/11.