NEW YORK — Eleven years after Americans reeled with shock at the attacks of 9-11, 14-year-old Claudia Murtha of Lower Makefield, Pennsylvania says: “The pain and the hurt are still so strong.”
Americans in big cities and small towns are commemorating 9-11, the single largest foreign attack on U.S. soil apart from Pearl Harbor. These commemorations honor the over 3,000 killed that day, as well as American casualties in the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and include religious observances. But in New York, an atheist group has sued the private non-profit that operates the national memorial — just for including one iconic cross among the 1,000 artifacts on display for visitors during the commemoration. Lawyers for the memorial are fighting back.
Philadelphia suburb Lower Makefield is holding a “Day of Reflection” at its own memorial, the Garden of Reflection. The event recalls the attacks and victims, and urges people to help veterans returning from the nation’s wars. Next door in New Jersey, the town of Millville is hosting a candlelight vigil to honor fire fighters, police and emergency workers, many of whom lost their lives in New York — the site of three attacks — as well as the Pentagon in Washington, and the hijacked airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania farm field.
In New York, however, American Atheists Inc. has sued the National September 11 Memorial and Museum for displaying the iconic steel beam cross that became a national symbol in the days after 9-11. The museum’s lawyers have filed papers to throw out the lawsuit, saying that the decision should be left to the curators, who do not work for the government. They also argue that even if they did, there is no legal authority barring curators from displaying an item with religious significance. The lawyers have accused the atheists of trying to revise history, while overlooking that many people directly impacted by the attacks turned “to their respective faiths.”