I originally sat down to write about the debate over the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, but soon found something seriously wrong with the controversy underlying the issue.
Some want Mohammed put through the civilian judicial process and to hold the trial in New York, and I can be counted amongst that group. Others, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, want a civilian trial somewhere aside of New York City, for fears that it may, once again, make the area susceptible to a terrorist attack. Still others want Mohammed to undergo trial in a military tribunal.
All camps have valid arguments worth considering. The energy being poured into this heated debate though, while perfectly understandable, is taking the focus away from a major aspect of the healing process: rebuilding, in a very literal sense. It has been over eight years since the skyline of New York was forever changed in the most horrifying and violent way conceivable.
I consider the current state of ground zero to be analogous to the condition of New York as a whole. While trying the man responsible for the attacks is of upmost importance, I fully believe equal priority deserves to be given to the process of rebuilding the World Trade Center.
Vengeance is not soul-cleansing. It does not rebuild hearts, and it does not rebuild cities. Until something is built in the place of the Twin Towers, whether it is new skyscrapers or a memorial to those men and women lost in the attacks, New York City and the entire nation will never be able to complete the healing process.
Do not misunderstand me. Construction is underway at the site. One World Trade Center is scheduled to be completed in three years' time. Constant pressure, however, must be placed upon the city government to continue the process on time. Constant and transparent progress reports should be available for public consumption. If any project is "shovel-ready" and worthy of federal stimulus aid, it is certainly construction in the Financial District. New York must not allow the feelings of vengeance and justice to take focus away from the rebuilding process.
The debate over Mohammed's trial will continue to rage on until the administration makes a final decision. I believe, however, that the national conversation needs to pay due attention to not only the justice process, but the rebuilding process as well. As long as nothing but a hole remains in the heart of Manhattan skyline, healing will never be complete.