9-11 a "New York thing"?
By John D. Turner
22 June 2002

I was listening to the radio on the way home the other day. The guest on the talk show I was tuned to was an atheist, speaking on the issue of the 9-11 cross.

The 9-11 cross was found on the site of the World Trade Center atrocity. Two steel beams, welded together in the shape of a cross by the heat and violence of the destruction, found standing upright in the rubble of one of the towers. To many of the Christian faith, this represents a miracle, a sign of hope rising from the ashes of sorrow. It was set aside to be part of the future memorial planned to remember those who perished as victims of that attack, and remains on the site.

It was the inclusion of this cross in the memorial that the atheist took exception to. As the head of a group trying to have the cross removed from the site, he opined that religious symbology has no place at the memorial site. "Why should a Christian symbol be permitted", he asked? Others not of the Christian faith died there too. What about them? In his view, the presence of the cross is "divisive".

Of course, being a talk radio show, many people called in to discuss the issue. One caller proposed that any religious group that wanted to place a symbol should be allowed to do so, in memory of those of their faith who died. This, of course, would be in keeping with such symbology being placed on a tombstone of the deceased, for example. It should be noted that many bodies of those who died were never recovered from the rubble, making the site, in essence, a mass grave. This idea, however, the guest rejected out of hand. He was particularly vehement against placing any Islamic symbols on the site, despite the fact that Muslims (other than the hijackers) were numbered among the body count of the victims.

He gave several reasons for his stand. He tried to bring up a "separation of Church and State" issue. When it was pointed out that the memorial was being privately funded, he countered with a vague statement to the effect that "well, the government has to be involved somewhere along the line". His argument that religious symbols were "divisive" stemmed in part from his idea that if any group were left out, then that wouldn't be "fair". Since he was absolutely opposed to any Muslim symbols, he pretty much guaranteed that a large, important religious group would be left out. It soon became apparent that his real objection was to religion in general.

It is interesting to note that in his opinion, the only non-divisive way to handle the "problem" is to have no religious symbols at all. As an atheist, he was, of course, opposed to any religious symbols as a matter of principle, though he tried to hide this by expressing his "concern" that some group might get left out or feel slighted. His concern didn't extend to Christians who might feel slighted that the cross was being removed. The "divisiveness" that might entail was not an issue. He had no problem with eliminating all symbols, of course, for the same reason that Christians have no problem with having a cross; it fit his "religious" context. He would see it as right and proper to have no symbology, simply because his symbology is to have none.

Remember, this isn't a manufactured cross, purchased for the purpose of placing it as a memorial. It was created on the spot, in the heat and fire of the destruction that claimed so many lives. It was formed from beams from Building One crashing into Building Six. It is seen by millions of Americans as a fitting memorial to those whose only "crime" was to show up for work that day. Many see it as a sign from God. His argument was that with all the heat and steel being flung about, the odds of that happening by accident were high, and that is all it was; just an accident and of no special significance.

Well, this is America. He is entitled to his opinion. I don't happen to share it, but he is entitled.

It wasn't until one of his responses to a later caller that I became so angry with him that I wanted to throw something through the radio.

Apparently exasperated that the callers failed to appreciate his stance on the issue, he made the statement that 9-11 was a "New York thing" and that Texans didn't have any business telling New Yorkers what they should or shouldn't place on the memorial site in the first place.

I must admit this was news to me. I hadn't realized that the City of New York had seceded from the United States.

If what happened on 9-11 in New York is a New York matter, then why are billions of American taxpayer dollars going to repair the damage, and pay the families of those killed? Money that comes from you and I, and millions of other Americans outside the City of New York? If it is a New York matter, perhaps New Yorker's should shoulder the burden alone.

If only a New York matter, why have we spent billions pursuing the war on Terrorists? Why have U.S. soldiers, particularly those not from New York, died in Afghanistan? I realize that New York's finest were hit hard by this act of terrorism, and make no mistake; I hold them in high regard. But if this is a New York matter, and Texan's need not be concerned, why aren't they out fighting the terrorists instead? Why not call out the New York National Guard, and let the rest of us go about our business as usual?

If only a New York matter, why was I, as a reservist, mobilized in response? Why are other reservists and active force members serving overseas away from their families to protect against this happening again?

The answer of course, is that it was not simply a New York thing. It was an attack against the United States of America, and our way of life. And just as the attack was against America, the memorial belongs to America as well. It isn't just a "New York thing" any more than the memorial at Pearl Harbor is just a "Hawaiian thing".

The cross at ground zero is an artifact of that holocaust. It is not inappropriate to display it. Had six girders contrived to melt together in such a fashion as to create a Star of David, I would have no problem with it being displayed either. Should any religious group who lost members that day wish to place a memorial marker, that's fine by me. Atheists can represent their beliefs by whatever means they feel appropriate. As a Latter Day Saint, I myself don't use the cross as a religious symbol. We prefer to celebrate Christ's resurrection, rather than venerate the instrument of his death. I understand the symbology, however, and have no animus towards those who choose to remember in this manner. This is America. We have the freedom to worship as we please, or not as we choose.

Just don't tell me that 9-11 is a "New York thing" and that I as a Texan have no business making comments.

Particularly when you are taking my money and attempting to belittle my beliefs.