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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mother of Flight 93 hero calls for “a full and transparent review” of the crescent-shaped memorial

Blogburst logo, petition

For two years, Tom Burnett Sr. has been speaking out against the crescent-shaped memorial to Flight 93. This week Beverly Burnett (mother of Flight 93 hero Tom Burnett Jr.) stepped into the public eye to support her husband, and to make her own appeal for a full investigation:
Today, I am adding my voice for a full and transparent review of the National Park Service and Flight 93 design selection process that produced Crescent of Embrace. Does it have Islamic symbols or doesn’t it? Let's settle this once and for all.

Why do you think Tom Sr. opposed this design? It is pretty simple; Tom Sr. saw the Islamic symbols and knew those symbols did not belong at the crash site of Flight 93.

Tom Burnett Sr. traveled to Pennsylvania last August to attend the Task Force Meeting to voice his opposition to the memorial design. A Family Board member as well as a commissioner accused Tom Sr. being “just like the Islamic terrorists” that killed our son.

Why didn’t someone speak up and defend Tom Sr.’s right to voice his opinion?
Thanks to The Somerset Daily American for publishing Mrs. Burnett’s complete statement, which she also entered into the record of the most recent Memorial Project meeting. Read the whole thing.

Two other mentions of the memorial controversy in the local PA press this week

In a letter to the editor, a local woman echoed Mrs. Burnett’s sentiment in favor of preserving the site as it is, instead of demolishing the highly regarded Temporary Memorial and radically transforming the landscape, as the Memorial Project intends.

At present the Temporary Memorial looks down over the “field of honor.” Because this temporary memorial is located roughly in the center of the planned half-mile wide crescent, it will be eliminated. Visitors who stand at the location of the Temporary Memorial will no longer look out over the original landscape, but will instead see the crash-site framed between the pincer tips of the giant Islamic-shaped crescent.

They call the crescent a broken circle now, but the unbroken part of the circle, what symbolically remains standing in the wake of 9/11 (originally called the Crescent of Embrace) remains completely unchanged.

Nice words from a local columnist, but no fact-checking

In the area’s second local paper, The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, columnist Ralph Couey offers a very nice tribute to the heroes of Flight 93 in which he mentions Mr. Burnett’s opposition to the planned memorial. Unfortunately, Mr. Couey goes on to describes Mr. Burnett’s opposition as “hopeless intransigence,” and expresses his optimism that it can be gotten past.

Given that newspapers are supposed to get to the truth, one would hope that those who gain the privilege of this public platform would bother to check the facts. If Mr. Burnett is correct in his warnings about Islamic symbolism, then finding a way to get past these objections is like finding a way to sneak a hijacker past gate security. It is a bad thing, not a good thing.

The petition that Mr. Burnett sponsored along with our blogburst group lists four damning facts about the approved design that can all be verified in a matter of minutes. Can Mr. Couey check just one: that a person standing between the tips of the giant crescent and facing into the center of the crescent will be facing within 2° of Mecca?

The Muslim prayer direction in this animation (qibla) is from the Mecca-direction calculator at Islam.com. (If you have trouble getting their calculator to work--your Java has to be configured correctly--there is another Mecca direction calculator at QiblaLocator.com.)

This Mecca-orientation makes the giant crescent a mihrab, the Mecca-direction indicator around which every mosque is built. Does Mr. Couey really want to see the world’s largest mosque planted on the Flight 93 crash site? It is fine to speak highly of the heroes of Flight 93, but it would be a lot more meaningful if he would honor the Burnett’s urgent appeal for fact-checking by stepping over to a globe and checking this one simple factual claim.

Mr. Couey is not the only one who wants the crescent controversy to go away without caring to know the truth. Sorry, but that is insufficient. Planting a giant Mecca-oriented crescent on the crash-site will dishonor the heroes of Flight 93, and it fails to follow their example. They didn’t just have good intentions. They got the job done, and we have to get the job done too. We can’t be asleep at the wheel while an al Qaeda sympathizing architect hijacks our memorial.

What? Is it just too outlandish to think that the enemy might try to hijack one of our memorials? The same way that it is just too outlandish to think that the enemy might dare to hijack our commercial airliners? Do these people even know what they are memorializing?

But they CAN wake up. All they have to do is actually check the facts. Then they will know. So please Mr. Couey, take the time to check a few facts, then write a second column, reporting your findings. Somebody out there in Somerset needs to start telling the truth. It might as well be you.

UPDATE: Columnist Ralph Couey emails a clarification

Mr. Couey insists that his reference to “hopeless intransigence” was not directed at Mr. Burnett’s opposition to the crescent design but “dealt solely with the parties involved in the land purchase.”

I’ll take his word for that. The way he sandwiched his mention of Mr. Burnett’s protest in between his comments about the land deal certainly made it look like he was drawing a parallel, which is how I interpreted him, but there have been plenty of times when my own writings have been open to readings that I did not intend. These things happen. Here is the relevant part of Mr. Couey’s column:
I have to admit that for awhile, I was worried. There was the uproar concerning the design, and the dispute over the land purchase seemed to be hopelessly mired in mutual intransigence.

In addition, I was concerned over the tendency of some Americans toward selective amnesia.

Would this thing drag on until public apathy buried the whole idea of a memorial?

As it turned out, my fears were largely groundless. The design issues have been settled, although there are voices, including Tom Burnett Sr. (father of Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett Jr.), being raised in opposition.

And with the latest news about the land, it appears that even hopeless intransigence eventually can be bridged.
Given what still remains to be bridged (Mr. Burnett’s protest), and the forward looking sentence structure “eventually can be bridged,” I don’t think it was unreasonable for me to see a parallel being drawn between the end of the landowners opposition and a hoped for end to Mr. Burnett’s opposition. Indeed, this implied hope is hard to escape. Still, there is no reason to doubt that the resulting association of “hopeless intransigence” with Mr. Burnett was accidental, whereas I simply asserted that it had been made. I should have been clearer, and so should Mr. Couey.

In any case, how Mr. Couey’s refers to Tom Burnett's opposition is a minor point. What the blogburst post focuses on is Mr. Couey’s apparent desire to see an end to that opposition, without any concern for whether our claims about the design are accurate or not. THAT is where Mr. Couey is untenable. If our claims are accurate (and it is easy to verify that they ARE accurate), then the crescent design is actually a memorial to the terrorists and it NEEDS to be opposed.

Thus our blogburst post goes to some length (in a pretty nice way I think), to urge Mr. Couey to please check a few facts before taking a stand. He says in his email that he prefers to defer to the families that are backing the crescent design. That is a nice sentiment, but it makes no sense. Why would he defer to ANYONE about very important matters of fact that he can check for himself in a few minutes?

The only reason for Couey to eschew the facts is if he doesn’t WANT to know the truth, which is how the Memorial Project got into this mess in the first place. The reason to point out the non-functionality of this truth-avoiding behavior is not make Mr. Couey look bad. It is to let him know about the opportunity he has to make himself look very good.

Couey can be a hero. He is in a great position to help stop a hijacking, if he will just look up from his presumptions for long enough to check a few facts. Who can turn down opportunity like that?

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