The Terrorist Trial Must Go On Here

By Gabe Pressman
|  Tuesday, Jan 5, 2010  |  Updated 6:32 PM EDT
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The Terrorist Trial Must Go On Here

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A firefighter from Bergen County waves a US flag on top of a firetruck just below the "Tribute in Light" memorial across from the World Trade Center site, 11 September, 2004, in New York.

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For New Yorkers it’s a dilemma -- but they have no choice.

 

President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, have decided to hold the September 11th terrorists trial in New York City.

The cost of doing this will be immense -- and, on top of that, there will be increased danger to the city as the world focuses attention on Manhattan.

The best argument for holding the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other suspects in federal court here is that the terrorist attack took place in Manhattan. Nearly 3,000 people perished here on the morning of September 11, 2001 -- and Holder believes this trial can bring justice for the families who lost their loved ones on that grim day.

Yet many families think having the trial here will also give the defendants an opportunity to filibuster and spew hatred in a civilian courtroom. They think it would be a far better idea to have them tried by a stern military court in Guantanamo, whose rules would prevent them from using the trial as a propaganda tool.

"Families are furious about this," said Debra Burlingame, whose brother, Chic Burlingame, was the pilot of an American Airlines plane hijacked on 9/11.

She explains the federal government knows the families are opposed to having the trial in New York. "We support military commissions but they are going to see a wave of fury and I don’t think they’re prepared for it."

Yet the decision has been made on the highest level. The trial will be held here. And, as New Yorkers we have to accept it. We've dealt with controversial trials before and come through them intact. In a tumultuous time, we tried the Communist leaders of the United States back in the 50s. Alger Hiss was put on trial here. So were the Rosenbergs.

This trial will stir deep emotions in all of us. The attack nine years ago was the worst tragedy in our history. It inflicted a deep wound on every one of us.

I hate the word "closure," as it's sometimes used in dealing with the aftermath of tragedy. We don't need closure but we do need a day of reckoning with the murderers of September 11, 2001.

I can understand the view of Obama and Holder that this trial has to be held here. And, despite the protests of some family members, they may be right. We need to heal -- and, instead of inconclusive debate on whether or not the trial should be held here, we need to support the government's effort to heal the wounds left by the terrible attack.

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