Have you taken the time to adequately understand?

Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn't taken the time adequately to understand. - Robert R. Brown

Lately there has been so much divisive rhetoric over the proposed Mosque three blocks away from the 9-11 memorial.

Throughout my love of travel I have had many unique opportunities to live, understand and appreciate other cultures and customs.

Tolerance was also something instilled in me and something that was expected in my family from an early age.

It was what my Viejita's wisdom called, "God's mandate to all on his earth to live and let others live."

Yet tolerance is so much more... it is exercising a fair and objective attitude towards those whose opinions, practices, religion, nationality differ from our own.

It is not just agreeing with one another or somehow being indifferent to another's culture and customs.

Tolerance at its core is showing respect for the essential humanity in every person.

I know that nothing will ever ease the pain and heartbreak experienced on Sept. 11, 2001 for the victim's family members.

So many innocent people lost their lives, here's a break down which I'll share:

•343 NYFD firefighters and paramedics
•23 NYPD police officers
•37 Port Authority police officers
•1,402 people in Tower 1
•614 people in Tower 2
•658 people at one company, Cantor Fitzgerald
•1 NYFD firefighter killed by a man jumping off the top floors of the Twin Towers

In addition to:
There were 147 people on the four planes and a total of 10 terrorists: 
•American Airlines Flight 11 (crashed into the WTC): 92 (including five terrorists)
•United Airlines Flight 175 (crashed into the WTC): 65 (including five terrorists)

A total of 3,497 people died in the September 11, 2001, attacks:

• 3,478 victims
• 19 terrorists

Were you ever able to go New York City and viit the World Trade area?

I was fortunate to have spent time there on a couple of lay overs on trips overseas, as well as right after 9-11.

The World Trade Center area was a pretty big area and included seven buildings: One World Trade Center and Two World Trade Center consisted of two 110-story office towers, Seven World Trade Center was a 47-story office building, Four and Five World Trade Center are 9-story office buildings, Six World Trade Center is an 8-story U.S. Custom House, and Three World Trade Center was a 22-story hotel were all constructed around a central five-acre landscaped Plaza.

All seven buildings had entrances onto the Plaza as well as onto surrounding city streets. My favorite was the Mall at the World Trade Center, located immediately below the Plaza which was the largest enclosed shopping mall in lower Manhattan, as well as the main interior pedestrian circulation level for the complex, stations for three of New York's subway systems were located underground directly below the tower in the Mall.

The two main office towers were 1,350 feet high and were the tallest buildings in New York City and the 5th and 6th tallest in the world.

The Center contained approximately 12 million square feet of office space, including the two million square feet of office space in Seven World Trade Center.

In the two tower buildings, each floor was approximately one acre in size and each tower contained 4.8 million gross square feet of floor area.

Some 50,000 people worked in the World Trade Center. It was estimateds that another 150,000 to 200,000 business and leisure visitors came to the center daily.

I was reading a great article just last night on the three towers under construction at this very moment. Tower One will be 177 stories tall when completed sometime in 2011 and will be the tallest building in the US and second tallest in the world.

But I digress - I had to do some research and found that the existing building under consideration is located in Lower Manhattan at 45-47 Park Place. It is on the site where the existing building dates back to the late 1850s.

I know there has been alot of angry rhetoric on the subject. But Islam didn't kill these innocent people, al-Qaeda operatives did, of which 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

These nineteen extremists caused the most lethal of all terrorist attacks in US history. The Cordova Initiative was started by a Muslim outreach group and has been using this building for Friday prayers since 2009.

The actual space is open from Monday through Friday between the hours of noon and 10 p.m. The “Mega Mosque” term as well as its location (which I'd lately had heard all over the news) is inaccurate given that the project is not at Ground Zero.

It has however created a media firestorm and evoked very strong emotions from people all over the US and abroad.

Yes, true it is located three blocks or within a fifteen minute walk from Ground Zero, but that's where all the distance in the world is measurable.

What most people don't realize is that this proposed so-called "Mega Mosque" will actually be a community center that New Yorkers wil also be able to use and is appropriately called "Park 51" for its physical location.

I checked their website at www.Park51.org and it is described as, "The facility will be dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for our city and respect for our planet.

It further states, "Park51 will join New York to the world, offering a welcoming community center with multiple points of entry.”

Reading further I found that when built Park 51 (which will be 501c3 non-profit facility) would cover aprox. 150,000 square feet and stand 16 stories high. The building will be wrapped in a honeycomb of abstract shapes.

The building design is compared by some to the Fortress of Solitude, the crystalline headquarters of Superman depicted in comic books. So all the reports of it looking like a mosque just are inaccurrate.

The space when completed is being divided into a prayer space for Muslims which will be on two levels in the basement and the 12th floor will have a 9/11 memorial and sanctuary open to people of all faiths.

The entire facility is being spec'ed to be green and will include an outdoor garden. The group has been holding many discussion over the past several months with the local YMCA, JCC as well as with New Yorkers of different backgrounds, faiths, cultures and races. They were surveyed and asked what they wanted to see built and the answer was the same - a community center that could service Lower Manhattan.

Interestingly enough according to the 2009 Census Bureau estimates there are approximately 8.4 million people living in New York, and an estimated 650,000 Muslims now represented as one of the fastest growing religious communities. A mosque nearbye has actually been there over 30 years.

I love this country who has given me so much - and am a military veteran who dislikes fiction and have never indulged in conspiracy theories.

So I must point out and am sure that we can unanimously agree on, is that the people who were responsible for the horrific attacks had an extremist view of what their purpose on this earth

The destruction they caused forever scarred an entire nation on that horrific day.

I premise the following by saying, I stand by my belief that America is the greatest nation on earth, yet historically, we have made a few shameful choices.

I've seen first hand the discrimination against groups of people that were here first.

We've discrimated against our Native Americans, Irish, Polish, Italians, Jews, African Americans, Hispanics and Gays and Lesbians. And now we've turned to the Muslims.

I watched our President the a few weeks ago make his statement about one of our nation's founding principles being religious freedom.

Yet everywhere I look, there are people trying to oppress these very same freedoms.

There has been a firestorm and opposition to Park 51 project - all concerned with Muslims gathering and worshiping near the 9-11 memorial.

But what these people certainly have failed to realize is that the Muslim communities have been living and practicing their faith only blocks from Ground Zero for the last 30 years.

The Muslim Americans in this country, whether through birth or naturalization were not responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet we continue hold them accountable and to bear the burden of guilt. Many others go even further and discrimenantly make them feel as if they are somehow "less American" because these nineteen extremists were Muslim.

We are talking about very different Muslims.

The Muslims in New York City long lost their immigrants status.

They are first, second and third generation Americans and a part of the fabric that binds our society.

They are Americans who have served in our armed services, are NYC policemen, fireman, teachers, home owners and business owners. 

Another article I read stated that once Park 51 is built it will create more than 150 full time jobs in Lower Manhattan.

This $100M project will create employment and bring more people to the area and will help rejuvenate an entire district.

I have many friends in New York, I love New York City and was in NYC right after 9-11.
I support Park 51.

I pray and hope that this space becomes a place where a new dailogue can begin.

Where Muslims and non Muslims can come together and share a space of peace and purpose.

Where we can finally all show the world that AMERICANS can live and worship freely, as Americans.

Make it a great dia!

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