Rubbing Salt in 9/11’s Wounds

PhD-dropout Alec Rawls has a conspiracy-theory laden blog he’s using to rub salt in 9/11 victims’ wounds. Aptly called, “Error Theory,” Rawls latest has drawn the attention of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for his criticism of the proposed Flight 93 memorial. According to the Post-Gazette:

Nearly two years after the design of the United Flight 93 Memorial was changed to eliminate any perceived Islamic symbolism, the father of one of the people killed in the crash has asked that his son’s name be withheld from the monument.

“It’s something I’d rather not do, but I can’t get anyone to listen,” said Tom Burnett Sr., of Northfield, Minn. “In a sense, I’m asking for a call to action.”

Burnett’s suspicions have been inflamed by Rawls’ strange allegations:

“A person facing into the giant central crescent of the Flight 93 Memorial is facing Mecca.”

There are 44 glass blocks being used in the design, representing the 40 passengers and four terrorists who hijacked the plane.

The 93-foot tall Tower of Voices, which will include wind chimes to represent those who died, is an Islamic sundial. “Shadow calculations confirm that, on any day of the year, when the tower shadow reaches the inner arc of trees, it will be time for Islamic afternoon prayers.”

According to Rawls, he has Burnett’s full support:

He described his own efforts to stop the crescent design, including letters to the press that were never published. [Update: In a subsequent discussion with Mrs. Burnett, she thought that at least one of the letters was published by the Somerset Daily American. Will update later with what I can verify about who did and did not publish the letters.] With the crescent design still going forward, he has decided that it is necessary to up the ante, and has authorized me to publicize his decision to protest the crescent design by insisting that Tom Jr.’s name not be inscribed on one of the 44 glass blocks emplaced along the flight path, or used anywhere else in the memorial.

The problem with the theory, of course, is, like theories of Young Earth Creationists, it has no bearing on reality. There are only 40 glass blocks planned for the memorial.

Back to the Post-Gazette:

When the concerns about the use of the crescent first arose, the designer of the memorial, Paul Murdoch, willingly changed the shape to an almost full circle.

And this:

Regarding the claim that there are 44 glass blocks in the memorial, Mr. Murdoch vehemently disagreed, saying that, first of all, there is no glass block used in the design.

Instead, there are 40 inscribed marble panels listing the names of the passengers and crew at the gateway to the Sacred Ground, where their remains still rest.

There is then an opening in the wall, Mr. Murdoch said, and three additional panels, which would include the date, Sept. 11, 2001.

“Where the other one is being fabricated, I don’t know,” he said.

And there’s more in the Post-Gazette to refute these absurd allegations.

It’s enough that we collectively were victimized on September 11, 2001, and that some, like Mr. Burnett, felt that pain as no one ever should. But Rawls’ fabrications continue to divide us, and rub salt in old wounds. And Muslims were also horrified at the actions of a few, claiming their religion as justification for pure evil – just as the vast majority of Christians are horrified by the Ku Klux Klan claiming Jesus of Nazareth as inspiration for their hateful deeds.

Sifting through plans for a memorial to eradicate every imagined reference to Islam brings us all down.

Rawls and others of his ilk should visit a Mosque, or an interfaith gathering with Muslims, Christians, and Jews. For one evening, they should speak with, pray with, and get to know their neighbors. But perhaps that is asking too much.

After all, Jesus had a very unconventional response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”