Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Tribute in Light ... Not a War Memorial


In today's memorials of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I worry some Americans may again lean toward thinking of all Muslims as radical, would-be terrorists. Although well-intentioned Americans know this is a false image of Islam, the tarring of Muslims with a single brush could intensify again as a result of the tenth anniversary remembrances. With this in mind, I'd like to post this poem — a haiku — as a hopeful, more positive memorial.

Not a War Memorial


Like beacons or search
lights — ghostly towers glimmer
in star-riddled skies.






Inspired by the Tribute in Light memorial in which two beams of
light shone upward from near Ground Zero for a month after
3/11/02, the six-month anniversary of the tragic attack.

Dedicated to Saade Mustafa and other Arab Americans who worked
at Ground Zero. His picture is featured in the
Life photography
book
Faces of Ground Zero by Joe McNally. Mustafa said, "I ran
cable and set up movie lights for the search. My parents are
Palestinian. Islam is not terrorism. I was in the U.S. Navy in the
Gulf War." It seems fitting to dedicate a poem about light to this
lightbearer, a genuine American hero.
       



Photo credit below.
— Vince Gotera, from Ghost Wars (2003).

A little background. After 9/11, photographer Joe McNally documented the "faces of Ground Zero" with incredible lifesize photographs, shooting almost 300 full-figure images. These were collected in an exhibit and coffee-table-size book. Some of these images can also be seen in Joe McNally's online portfolios; a new website recaps some of the 2001 images and updates them with new tenth-anniversary 2011 portraits.

The Faces of Ground Zero image that struck me the most was of TV electrician Saade Mustafa, a Palestinian American. In the photo, he is hefting one of the huge studio lights he set up at Ground Zero to help with the search for survivors and then bodies. Part of what Mustafa says in McNally's book, "Islam is not terrorism. I was in the U.S. Navy in the Gulf War," shows his realization and fear that American Muslims will be discriminated against in the aftermath of 9/11, perhaps even hurt or killed. And so his image and statement are both meant to help forestall as well as mend such ruptures.

I found (and still find) Mustafa tremendously heroic and inspiring. His job, to be a bringer of light, coalesced in my mind with the magnificent Tribute in Light displays, building twin towers of bright light at Ground Zero. The footnote that accompanied my poem in Ghost Wars (see above) referred only to the first Tribute in Light event. In fact, Tribute in Light has shone for the subsequent anniversaries, and shines at this very moment for the tenth time as I write this on the evening of 9/11/2011.

As light can bring us hope in darkness, both literally and metaphorically, let us keep in mind that all people are sources of the light. All people — Muslim, Jew, Christian, whatever. Notice how the double "towers" of the 9/11 Tribute in Light point us toward heaven. Whether you believe in heaven or not, I hope we can all agree to see the best in each other, each other's light, each other as light. Amen . . . a ritual word used by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amen.



Below, pictures of the Tribute in Light over the last ten years. I hope you find these as inspiring as I do.
Could you leave me a comment below? I'd love to hear what you think. Thanks.





2004



Photo by Derek Jensen, Wikimedia user Tysto, released into public domain.



2004



Photo by Mike Hvozda, U.S. Coast Guard official photo, in public domain.



2006



Photo by Jackie, Flickr member "Sister72," licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



2006



Photo by Denise Gould, U.S. Air Force official photo, in public domain.



2006



Photo by Denise Gould, U.S. Air Force official photo, in public domain.
A smaller version of this photo appears above next to the poem.



2008



Photo by Flickr member Scott Hudson, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



2008



Photo by Kenn Mann, U.S. Air Force official photo, in public domain.



2008



Photo by Kenn Mann, U.S. Air Force official photo, in public domain.



2009



Photo by Flickr member Francisco Diez, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



2009



Photo by Flickr member Dan Nguyen, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



2010



Photo by Randall A. Clinton, U.S. Marines official photo, in public domain.



2010



Photo by Flickr member Bob Jagendorf, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



2010



Photo by D L, Flickr member "dennoit," licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



2010



Photo by Flickr member Bob Jagendorf, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


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