An unsung hero of the 9/11 recovery: The Muslim engineer who rebuilt the Pentagon crash site as a chapel
Eighteen years ago on a September morning she’ll never forget, Manal Ezzat fled from the burning Pentagon building in such a panicked rush that her hijab fell off.
The next day, when the fires were still burning, Ezzat set to her task of rebuilding. Her vision, and the work of a huge team of public servants, led to what arose from the ashes: a new use for a site forever marked by tragedy.
Today, at the very spot where the plane piloted by terrorists crashed into the Pentagon, there is a chapel. Eighteen years after the mass murder of 184 people here, U.S. military employees of every faith gather daily to pray.
“There was a lot of emotion built into that effort,” Ezzat said this year, as she contemplated the anniversary of a day she still can’t fully comprehend. “We just wanted to make it a peaceful place that could help wipe away the tragedy.
Ezzat, an Army Corps of Engineers employee who was project manager for the Army’s space in the Pentagon at the time of the attack, knew right away when she and her co-workers were charged with designing the reconstruction that she didn’t want to make that segment of the Pentagon into office space again. No one would want his or her office there, she reasoned. Instead, she searched for a meaningful new purpose.
What emerged was a quiet sanctuary with cushioned blue seats and prayer books from several denominations. Stained glass windows pay tribute to those who died here: “United in Memory, September 11, 2001.” Anyone who wishes can walk next door to a memorial, where every victim’s name is written on the wall, and their life stories, as written by their loved ones, are told in two thick books. Pentagon employees who just want to visit the chapel without stopping at the memorial can enter through alternate doors.
A schedule posted on the wall shows Episcopal and Lutheran services every Wednesday, Hindu services and Jewish study sessions every Thursday, Greek Orthodox services every Friday, Buddhist prayers twice a month, and more.
The chapel’s most frequent users, according to chaplain Monica R. Lawson, are the Catholics who attend daily Mass there and the Muslims among the Pentagon’s massive workforce of 26,000 people. Some Muslims who pray five times a day, as is traditional, visit the chapel when they need a private space to pray. As a group, Muslims pray daily in midafternoon in the chapel and host a service with a sermon every Friday.
For Ezzat — who is Muslim and who was bothered by those who blamed her entire religion because the terrorists who attacked the Pentagon were Muslim extremists — seeing Muslims who are devoted U.S. military employees at prayer in the chapel is fulfilling.
“On a personal level, I heard things, negative things. … You’d hear it in the hallways and the corridors. ‘Oh, those idiots did this and did that.’ It hurt me,” she said. She wanted to argue — to say that the terrorists were a few horrible people, not representatives of her religion. But she brushed it off. “I’d hear it and get upset over it, and a minute later, I’m done with it,” she said.
It should have been closed as soon as those pictures started to come out and accounts of abuse started to be made known.
Obama should have tried to find some way around congress, although that would have cost him the second term.
What a horrible mark on America's history that place is.
Yeah, but she could still place her hands on the TV screen and be healed. That's worth something, isn't it?
The leaders of a California based-church have been accused of imprisoning homeless people, forcing them to beg all day and taking the money.
Dozens of victims had their papers taken, their welfare benefits stolen and were punished if they spoke of "things of the world", officials say.
Imperial Valley Ministries (IVM) operates about 30 affiliate church groups in the US and Mexico.
A dozen of the group's leaders were arrested on Tuesday.
The former pastor of Imperial Valley Ministries, Victor Gonzalez, was detained in San Diego.
Eleven others were held in El Centro, California, and Brownsville, Texas.
The defendants are facing charges of conspiracy, forced labour, document servitude and benefits fraud.
The church, which represents its pastors as "missionaries to drug addicts", lured victims by promising them food and shelter and opportunities to get back on their feet at "no cost", federal officials say.
"The indictment alleges an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with promises of a warm bed and meals," the lead prosecutor, US Attorney Robert Brewer, said at a news conference after the arrests.
"These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity."
A statement from the prosecutor added that "windows were nailed shut at some group home locations, leading a desperate 17-year-old victim to break a window, escape, and run to a neighbouring property to call police".
Victims were allegedly locked in group homes, and forced to beg for nine hours a day, six days a week.
According to prosecutors, victims were told "the only thing to be read is the holy bible" and "if any of the rules are broken there will be discipline".
Punishments included the withholding of food, and if they asked to leave they were told their children would be taken away, it is alleged.
Church leaders refused to allow a diabetic victim with low blood sugar to obtain medicine, said officials. She was able to escape.
They were also banned from using the telephone, and told to avoid their family because "only God" loved them now, said officials.
If they did manage to leave, church leaders continued to withhold their money, along with important documents such as immigration paperwork and food benefit cards.
A spokesperson for Israel's Embassy in Washington, Elad Strohmayer, was quoted in the report as saying that “these allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”
Upon arrival to Sochi, where he is slated to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Netanyahu also denied the report. "We have a directive, I have a directive, no intelligence work in the United States, no spies. And it's vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication," he said.
The spying devices that have been uncovered according to the report are known as "StingRays" and emulate normal cell towers to trick cellular devices into giving them their locations and identity details. They are also known as mobile subscriber identity catchers, or IMSI-catchers.
Netanyahu's bureau released a statement echoing his comments upon arrival in Russia. "A blatant lie. There is a longstanding commitment and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S. This directive is strictly enforced without exception."
They could if they had ANY conviction to serve the truth that translated into courage.