Politics & Government

Witnesses to 9/11 divided over New York mosque plans

CHARLOTTE — It's the debate that's dividing America: Should an Islamic center be built two blocks from where the World Trade Center was attacked nine years ago?

For a trio of 9-11 survivors now living in Charlotte, their answers are shaped not only by the Constitution and by what others - from pundits to the president - are saying, but also by their visceral connection to that time and place.

Financier Bob Hogan, who saw the sky burst into flames outside his 81st floor office in the north tower and then dodged a tidal wave of debris once he made it to the street, says the issue is simple: The Muslims behind the project should "do the right thing" by picking another site 10-15 blocks away.

That would show sensitivity, demonstrate real bridge-building and spare further pain to those who have suffered enough, he says.

But technology consultant Kathleen Britton, who lived a few blocks from the twin towers and saw people jumping to their deaths that day, says she'd support building a mosque near ground zero if she were still a New Yorker.

To oppose it, she says, would be to tell the children at P.S. 276 - the elementary school in her Manhattan neighborhood - that the United States is an intolerant nation, a place where constitutional rights are not for members of certain religions.

And then there's Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner, who was meeting in the Marriott next door to the towers when the first plane struck. He's torn.

Considering all the opposition in New York and nationally, he says, the easiest and maybe the most public-spirited thing for the Muslim organizers to do is build their center farther away.

And yet, he adds, in past battles over civil rights and religious liberty, the easy way wasn't necessarily the best way.

Read the full story at charlotteobserver.com.

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