The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia has been called the holiest site in all of Islam and on Sept. 11, 2015 it was a scene of tragedy. Hundreds were gathered at the mosque in the lead up to The Hajj, an annual pilgrimage physically and financially capable Muslims are required to make at least once in their lifetime. During the event, a severe storm with lighting and high winds buffeted the mosque and a nearby construction crane collapsed onto the building, killing at least 107 and injuring more than 238 worshippers.
The crane, owned by The Bin Laden Group, was there as part of a renovation project that was launched in 2011 by King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz. The mosque covers 1.47 million square meters and the scene was described as bloody and gruesome by many witnesses. Located inside the mosque is the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure called “The house of God,” which is the focus of worship and the pilgrimage scheduled to take place from Sept. 20-26. The Hajj is considered to be the largest gathering of people in the world and also a time of heightened security in Saudi Arabia. Previous pilgrimages have resulted in deaths due to people being trampled by crowds trying to get as close as possible to the Kaaba and part of the renovation was to create more entrance ways to the mosque. At this time, the Saudi government has attributed the horrific accident to the weather and ruled out any terrorist action. The wealth of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden was due to his family’s construction company, Bin Laden Group, which made its fortune with contracts covering the renovation of the Grand Mosque over decades. The coincidence of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America and this accident has not been lost on many observers.