Last Friday’s standing-room only hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was among the most dramatic I’ve witnessed. There was outrage – outrage not just from me as I declared the State Department “AWOL” in our quest to free an American Pastor, Saeed Abedini — a U.S. citizen — captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard […]
Ten years after the horrific attacks of 9/11, the remains of those murdered that day are still being identified.
Thanks to the use of DNA, authorities have now identified another victim from Ground Zero. Ernest James worked with professional services company Marsh & McLennan on the upper levels of the North Tower. The company lost more than 360 employees and consultants that day. The New York City medical examiner’s office says the identification work will continue. “As long as there is technology available, doctors have made a promise that we would continue to try to identify people,” said Ellen S. Borakove, a spokeswoman with the office.
That underscores what we have said all along – Ground Zero is hallowed ground. Sacred ground. And that’s exactly why we’re appealing a decision by a state court in our challenge to prevent an Islamic mosque from being built at Ground Zero. On that fateful day a decade ago, the landing gear of one of the hijacked planes crashed into the building where the mosque is to be built.
The announcement that remains were found near Ground Zero recently is a stark reminder of the carnage of that day and the need to preserve standing monuments to those events.
It also a reminder of the fact that a complete government inventory of remains has yet to be completed. This fact was raised in our lawsuit against the City of New York on behalf of Timothy Brown to preserve 45-47 Park Place, the planned site for the mosque.
Brown, a 9/11 first responder who lost nearly 100 friends that day, was denied standing to sue the City by Judge Paul Feinman, who wrote that claims that body remains were found as late as 2010 were “unsubstantiated.” We’re in the process of preparing our appeal in that case. This news today, though, clearly demonstrates the fact that human remains at Ground Zero have not been fully accounted for.
At a time when family members of the thousands murdered at Ground Zero prepare for the 10th anniversary marking this tragedy, many are no doubt still grieving, still grappling with the loss. And for many who are facing that pain, prayer provides a tremendous comfort. Their religious beliefs – a source of strength during a very difficult time.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg apparently doesn’t get it. Instead of permitting religious leaders to take part in what is a very traumatic and emotionally-charged event, he has decided to ban the clergy. The City says the ceremonies on 9/11 have never started with prayer, and this year will be the same.
As you might expect, that decision has touched a raw nerve with New York clergy. “During times like this, government does not have the answer, because people are looking for meaning,” said City Councilman and Pastor, Fernando Cabrera. “What’s wrong with prayer?”
The City’s position on banning clergy from the 9/11 event is about as absurd as the lawsuit filed recently attempting to remove a symbolic cross from a new museum at Ground Zero.
As you may recall, the group, American Atheists, went to court to get this symbol – two steel beams that survived the devastation of 9/11 – removed from the museum claiming the mere sight of the cross made them ill. We’re preparing an amicus brief backing this historic symbol on behalf of more than 100,000 Americans.
As the 10th anniversary of 9-11 draws near, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the thousands who were murdered that day – at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.