Cover Story: Losing sight of 9/11?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - September 11th, 2001.  The images of smoke billowing from the World Trade Center towers forever burned into our minds.

This weekend, there are remembrances to those who perished.  But under the shadow of religious and political mistrust are we losing sight of 9/11?

You think about that day, nine years ago.

The attacks - the three thousand people who died in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The confusion, that sense of helplessness we all felt.

Since then, for almost a decade, the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks was marked by somber reflection -- a call to unity -- a time to put politics aside.

Not this time.

This anniversary of Nine-eleven promises to be the most politically and religiously contentious ever.  A proposed mosque near ground zero.  And a Florida pastor's plan to burn the Koran.

For now, the Reverend Terry Jones has canceled the burning of Islam's holy book.  For now.  "We are seriously considering not burning the Koran," he said Friday.

Koran burning or not -- the damage may already be done. at home and abroad.

9/11 has officially been politicized.  You think about where we were nine years ago in the days after September 11th.

The country was united like never before.  Places of worship were bursting at the seams.  People pulled together.  Nine years since 9/11 - it's so much different.

On 9/10/2010 Charlotte was remembering one of America's darkest days in history with prayers and singing.

The Community Heroes Celebration.  A service this morning at Christ Covenant Church on Highway 51 in Matthews - honoring those who faithfully serve our community.

A level of appreciation raised after what happened on 9/11 2001.

"I don't think that they recognize that what they do everyday is really heroic. And it's an opportunity for the community to tell them that in fact it is," said Mecklenburg District Court Judge Lisa Bell.

While the images of that day may be etched in the nation's conscience.  The oneness of spirit felt in the days after the terrorist attacks seems forgotten in the noise of today's news.

And that saddens Charlotteans like Mark Walters and his wife Jennifer, who came with camera in hand to photograph the "Flags of Remembrance."

"It still exists today whether it's a foreign country or whether it's right here on American soil.. it certainly is a reality that hate does exist," said Walters.

Along Monroe Road next to Charlotte Fire's old training facility a poignant reminder that love is stronger than hate, 3,000 American flags placed in honor of every life lost that day.

A remembrance that was organized by The Firefighter Steven Coakley Foundation, a non-profit set up by Kara Walker and her husband Edmund in honor of Kara's brother Steve, an FDNY firefighter with Engine 217 who died in the Twin Towers.

In New York on Friday Kara will go to Ground Zero Saturday with members of Steve's company, and she urges us tomorrow to do something good.

"I think the biggest thing is not what you do - that you do something whether it's just sit and remember and say a prayer. I think just to be remembered," said Walker.

And how can remembering help?

"The fact that something can happen.. you don't know. You go to work one day and then all of a sudden there's a tragedy.. from my perspective it's really about gratitude and cherishing each moment I have," said Mark Walters.

Kara Walker told us on the phone from New York this afternoon there were concerns raised there about starting the fall youth athletic leagues on Saturday whether that would be appropriate on the anniversary on 9/11.

Organizers decided to go forward with it.  They decided that's what the people who were lost would want.

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