The World Trade Center: A Sacred Site R. Clark, J. Frazier July 4, 2010 Greg Underwood University of Phoenix The World Trade Center: Sacred Site Myths, while imagined, have their own explanations of the divine, that to the faithful and those who take the myth on ‘faith’, see as true, sacred and unquestioned. For those who do not see myths as religion and the lore and stories in it mere ‘stories’, events and elements in it are curiously close to the beliefs and persuasive elements of the philosophies or religion the person follows.
Take for example current world religions – elements of god, evil, goodness, light, dark, motherhood, piety, divine appointment, determinism – they are all part of the Pantheon. Remember, that back in the period when the stories and tales we now know as myths were the standard, they were seen and treated by the civilization or culture that followed them as the ‘truth’, the established knowledge and explanation of their world, their reality and their role and place in it. Each myth, each pantheon of gods had their own ‘sacred places’.
Like dwellings to humans, these sacred places were either their abodes or locations that held great significance to them due to events and roles that played out in it. There are different types of sacred sights. Despite their differences they are united by common elements. Sacred sites allow the people of a specific culture transcend time space, moving them to a distant, sacred space. Sometimes this is through historic retellings of actual events and sometimes it is through the imagination of things that cannot be proven to have happened.
They are the sites where important things happened, either through divine or human agency (Leonard & McClure, 2004). Some sacred places are sites for mourning. Let us, for the purpose of discussion, consider religion as an evolution or an expression of established myths. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the Golgotha, the hill and site where Jesus Christ was crucified, is a place of mourning but at the same time a place of divine sanctity as events of the divine that are important in the Pantheon, erformed on, for or by important figures in the pantheon happened there (wcg. org, 2008). Jesus Christ’s crucifixion is central to Christian theology. It is by his ‘death’ that ‘Man is saved’, an offering to God and to humanity. Without the death of Christ, in such a cruel and gruesome manner, the Christianity we know today won’t exist as it is where Jesus Christ transcends from mortal to divine.
Hence, the place he was cruelly put to death, the cross he was nailed to, his shroud, the nails, the crown of thorns, the city where it happened and all the characters evil and good that placed a part in it, they are all important in the telling and the sanctity of the event with the place, the city of Jerusalem and the hill of Golgotha determined in the larger Christian pantheon as absolutely and unquestionably sacred (wikipedia. org, 2010).
Now, let’s take a look at other sacred places – the temples of the Roman Gods, the temples and pyramids of Egyptian pharaohs, the ancient Celtic locations known as Stonehenge, that used to host worship and celebratory ceremonies, the ancient temples of the Olmecs, the Aztecs and the Incas and important places of worship of the American Indians are only among the many. Many of these places are not places of mourning but also of celebration. However, when worship and celebration happens, it only means remembrance, prayers and giving importance to a set of beliefs.
Now, by mourning, those who come to mourn remember all the good things about a person, an event or a relationship hence the loss is difficult and sad. They mourn to pray for, give thanks to as well as celebrate and give importance to the object of their mourning. Hence, in Christian churches, a mass is held to celebrate and mourn a departed before his/her body is entered into the tomb. Now in modern America, can it be said that the former site of the World Trade Center is an emergent sacred location? Like Troy in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (www. imelessmyths. com, 1999), it was cruelly destroyed and burnt down to the ground – unsuspecting individuals going about their lives attacked upon in stealth by an angry enemy wishing to terrorize with fear a nation (in comparison to Troy, considered a sacred place in the pantheon of Greek mythology, as proven in the digs at the Greek city of Pergamum in what is now Turkey). Granted, the terrorists did not have the supposed fleets of Greek navy and regiments of warriors and soldiers representing nations.
However, their attack was aimed to settle a score, to destroy, harm and if possible, raze to the ground Troy over several disputes and grievances over territory, politics, wealth and a woman, Helen. In comparison, the Al Qaeda terrorists’ motivations are not far off – politics, ideology, religion and territory. The World Trade Center was originally a venture to revitalize Lower Manhattan. The Port Authority thought this idea of consolidated world trade would bring a greater flow of commerce and traffic through the port.
It was a seven building structure that would house offices above west Hudson stop on the PATH Line (WTC, 2010). It can be assumed that the original team of men and women who envisioned such a bright future for the building could not have expected the World Trade Center would come to stand for far more. On September 11th, 2001, the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists who flew two commercial jets into the twin towers. On September 12th, amidst the twisted wreckage and a mourning nation, a sacred site was born.
The destruction of the World Trade Center opened a new chapter in global politics and conflict resulting to a continuing war on a global scale that resulted to change in regimes, associations and political leadership in the Middle East (Iraq) and Central Asia (Afghanistan) and caused several similarly themed events the world over (consider the Bali Bombings). It divided people by religion and belief, as well as united those who stand by view and faith, as well as realigned political affiliations and rearranged legislation from domestic to global agencies.
Most of all, soldiers, civilians and fighters lost their lives, causing families and communities to mourn and give a certain sense of importance, negative or positive, to the site where it all began – the former site of the Twin Towers in New York. The loss of lives in the building itself is significant. Families and friends still come to the site regularly to pray for and to mourn those who perished, including families of people who lost their lives in the preceding war.
The site has become sacred as the spiritual elements of their passing become a source of hope and inspiration to those who mourn them, celebrating their lives when they were still around. Much like Jerusalem, the site has become sacred due to the events that happened in it and the meaning attached to the event and the people involved. In conclusion The World Trade Center has come to stand for more than just a building that emphasizes global commerce. It is more than a way for the Port Authority to increase its ridership. And it is far more than a way to revitalize a dying neighborhood.
The images of the twin towers, broken, twisted and smoking are burned in the American cultural consciousness. The remains of the building has been cleared away, so that a new six building structure and a memorial can be re-built in the original’s place. But the site will never again just be an office building or a stop on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line. It will forever be a reminder to the American people that freedom always has a cost, and that cost can be tallied in lives. That very memory of the World Trade Center provides solidarity for many different people of different lifestyles.
It reminds us of our fragility and brings the realities of our global neighborhood in a harsh way. It moves us beyond the here and now and unites us against a common threat. It moves us to great heights of compassion and sacrifice and reminds us of the all to human flaws that we as a people struggle with. We are not so unlike our Greek brethren, nor are our modern sacred places so different from their ancient relative, Troy. References Information retrieved on July 1, 2010, from experiencefestival. com/a/Sacred_Places.
Information retrieved on July 1, 2010, from www. en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Presentation_of_Jesus_at_the_Temple Information retrieved on July 1, 2010, from http://www. wcg. org/lit/jesus/golgotha. htm. Information retrieved on July 1, 2010, from http://www. timelessmyths. com/classical/ Leonard, S. , & McClure, M. (2004). Myth and knowing. An introduction to world mythology . Retrieved from https://ecampus. phoenix. edu/content/eBookLibrary2/ content/eReader. aspx. (2010). World Trade Center. Retrieved from http://www. wtc. com/about/wtchistory-wtc- timeline