Tuesday began with the same eerily clear weather as did Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, with not a cloud in the sky, and a strange sense of quiet. Weehawken residents, officials, and religious leaders of various denominations gathered at 8 a.m. in front of the two-year-old Weehawken 9/11 memorial on the waterfront.
The memorial’s two steel 30-ft. tall tridents, which used to support the World Trade Center, stood against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. An observer could look between them and see the new Freedom Tower nearing completion across the Hudson.
That day marked the 11th anniversary of the 2001 tragedy during which Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes and drove them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, and because of the heroism of several passengers on the fourth plane, into an empty field in Pittsburg, Pa.
Remembering those lost
It was only the second time the anniversary of the attacks fell on a Tuesday since that year, with the first in 2007. 2,977 individuals perished on the tragic day, and 6,570 service personnel have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the subsequent war on terrorism.
Weehawken lost five residents in the tragedy: Juan Pablo Alvarez Cisneros, Eric Evans, Chris Gray, Peter Klein, and Robert Vicaro.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed by only 19 individuals.
“Everyone alive that day remembers where they were 11 years ago,” Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. “Unfortunately with what took place, sometimes expressed is hatred for people who are not terrorists, who were not involved in the attacks. I’m very pleased that we have representatives of the five major faiths in our country all expressing the same thoughts for peace in the world.”
‘The heart of Islam;’ the heart of all religion
“Thank you for allowing me to remind you of the true spirit of Islam, which has been clouded and distorted through this time post Sept. 11,” said Iman Mohammad Al Hayek of Union City’s North Hudson Islamic Education Center to the crowd. “The opening of the Qur’an, the book of Islam, best represents our message of mercy, compassion and kindness as the heart of Islam.”
He said that Muslims recite this opening in prayer 30 times a day or more, that in each prayer the message is repeated four times, and that therefore, they live and breathe the message every day.
“May God help us foster love and unity and peace and forgiveness among all of us,” he continued. “Give us the courage to fight the enemies, the real true enemies, the forces of fear and violence, and the forces of division.”
Pastor Birgit Solano of Weehawken’s Good Shepherd Church continued this message of tolerance and unity as she led the audience in a prayer.
“For our enemies, the ones for whom we would rather not pray,” she said, “And for ourselves, lead us from prejudice to truth, deliver us from hatred and revenge, give us courage to overcome our fears, and to build bridges. Oh God of mercy.”
The audience responded, “Hear our prayer.”
The power of one good deed
Nearly 3,000 people were killed by only 19 individuals, Rabbi Moshe Shapiro of the Hoboken Shabbat said that morning. He said that in the Jewish faith, rabbis teach that the force behind a good deed is much more powerful than that behind a bad deed.
“So if so much evil and so much terror and so much fear can come about from 19 people,” he said, “Then think about if 19 individuals got together to do positive. Imagine how much beautiful light we could bring to the world.”
Shapiro referenced a sage of the Jewish faith who taught that every morning an individual wakes up, all of their lives’ actions until that morning should be considered 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative. The first act of the day can tip the scales in either direction.
“My one good deed today can tip the scales not only for myself as an individual, but for the entire world,” he explained. “That’s the power of one act of goodness and kindness.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org