I live and work in New York. Like everyone who is lucky enough to call this place home, I love New York. I love it so much that when N. and I were planning our wedding, it came as a no brainer to us that it must be in New York. In fact, we got married in Lower Manhattan, a walking distance from Ground Zero. I walk by Ground Zero regularly, and it never fails to stir up up strong emotions. Nothing in this world can shaken you more than the aftermath of a tragedy, the depth of human hatred, and the evidence of wars. Anyone who tells you that Ground Zero is "just another piece of land now" has probably only seen it on TV, where you can use the LCD screen to create distance, the same way I do for other human tragedies elsewhere. The truth is, at least in my experience, when it is in your home, it questions your beliefs, breaks your heart, and frightens you out of your mind.
But you know what I also see surrounding Ground Zero? I see New Yorkers from all over the globe exchange greetings on their way to work every day. In a steadfast spirit that demands moving forward, their steps are filled with the bustling energy of this city. Like all New Yorkers, I have learned to say "hi" in many different languages. Where N. and I got married, you could actually look out and see the Lady of Liberty in all her glory, her torch held high. We held a celebration there not because we were unaware of a tragedy that continues to affect us all, but because we knew that New York would always be New York - where sadness and fear can not quench the joy of our community.
In the same way, we simply cannot allow an act of terror, no matter how horrid, to affect the friendship among New Yorkers. People who will worship at this cultural center aren't those who devise plans for terrorist attacks. They are fellow New Yorkers - our neighbors, our coworkers, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, and our family. They are honest people who go to work every day to rebuild our community. They, too, experienced 9/11 in all its horror. And they, too, will offer prayers for its healing.
There are times when we stand as a small community, and there are times when we stand as a nation. As a community, we must protect our unity. As a nation, we must protect our constitution. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of expression for all of its people. It saddens me greatly when people throw out the First Amendment as though it's New York City traffic law - applied only when needed. This project has every legal right to proceed, by basic principles on which this country was founded.
I look forward to seeing more community centers on every block of our streets, where conversations can build understanding and friendship. And I hope that from Ground Zero, the understanding and friendship that are so fundamental to the diversity of our city will go from New York to Cambridge, the long way around and the short way around, and everywhere in between.
- 'Not just another piece of land..'