One Nation, One Voice: Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 9/11
MPAC's Commemorative 9/11 Quilt
By: Shirin Nouh and Alicia Mesco
One Nation, One voice: Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 took place on Saturday, September 10 at the Islamic Center of Southern California. It was indeed a memorable place to be. As the clock approached 10am, more and more people filled the lecture hall. There was still another group outside the hall admiring the 9/11 quilt, hanging elegantly by the front door. The project, led by Hedab Tarifi and a group of volunteers, bore 3,024 names of victims that had perished on that day in that tragic event.
Aziza Hassan, Mistress of Ceremony, requested everyone to take their seats in the lecture hall. Seats were filling up and some guests were forced to stand. Sergeant Mike Abdeen led everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Chairman of ICSC, Hassan Zeenni, warmly welcomed everyone and recognized various members from LAPD, the Sheriff’s department, the Fire and Emergency Medical Services departments as well as friends and supporters from Homeland Security and the FBI. Next, he thanked our various sponsors and finally requested that the crowd observe a moment of silence in memory of the victims of 9/11.
Deputy Chief Mike Downing also remembered people of all faiths who lost their lives on 9/11 and prayed for a more peaceful world where love and tolerance will replace bigotry and hatred. Jihad Turk, Director of Religious Affairs of ICSC, recognized and honored America’s bravest: Captain Sean Conway, Reserve Chief Michael Liem, and LAPD Officer Mike Odel. All had shown tremendous courage and bravery in saving and protecting civilian lives. Council member Tom Labonge and Eric Garcetti were also recognized and thanked for joining us in this event.
Kevin James and Dr. Saleh Kholoki
Our special guest speaker was Kevin James, a first responder who saved lives on 9/11 and is featured in the documentary “Muhammad, the Legacy of a Prophet.” He is a Muslim convert, founder of the Islamic Society of Fire Department Personnel, and is a civil rights and fire safety activist. He thanked all the first responders who risked and/or lost their lives on that day and requested that we not only support them with words, but with meaningful action as well.
While grateful for the honor bestowed on him, he deferred this honor to all those who perished in the attempt to save lives on that fateful day. Commending all those present at this event for remembering the contributions and heroism of first responders, James nevertheless pointed out that this appreciation has to be expressed in action, not just words.
For example, James noted that, had first responders had access to the proper band width for their communication equipment on that day, they could have been commanded to evacuate the towers at the crucial turning point before their collapse. Instead, first responders continued to climb to higher floors, oblivious to the impending collapse, perishing along with the civilians they had found in lower floors. James bitterly complained that even now, that crucial band width must be purchased from the FCC, as opposed to freely provided, to those on whom our lives depend in times of crisis. He urged us to press our Congressional representatives on this matter.
James also brought attention to the refusal of insurance and health care providers to recognize the correlation between first responders and the alarmingly increased incidence of cancer among them. It is already 30% higher than the general population, and expected to increase dramatically in coming years, as the effects of asbestos exposure begin to take their toll. James noted that health insurance providers more readily reimburse patients for acid reflux than they do the first responders for their desperate need for cancer treatments.
Addressing Muslims in the United States, in particular more recent immigrants, he assured us that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and that we should not feel out of place here. He reminded us that Islam is nothing new in America, that one third of the African slaves brought to the New World were Muslim, and that there is archeological evidence in pre-Hispanic sculptures of a centuries-old presence of Africans who could conceivably have been Muslims, as well.
We would like to thank Kevin James for his courage, not only as a first responder, but for his willingness to fight now for truth and justice. We pray that Allah bless him and his family, and we thank all the people involved in making the event yesterday possible. We pray for the families of the 9/11 victims, that Allah may relieve their suffering through His Mercy, and we pray that all wars of aggression and torture of innocents will cease, for the sake of all humanity.
Dr. Maher's closing remarks
Dr. Maher Hathout gave the closing remarks. He said that true character is indeed demonstrated by First Responders whose instantaneous reflex strives to protect and save civilian lives. He prayed to God to give us the power to emulate them and concluded by saying that they should truly be commended and cherished in the most meaningful way.
Check out NBC’s coverage of this event honoring Kevin James: