An Islamic cultural center near the site of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center held its first exhibit Wednesday evening, the enthusiasm at the opening belying its troubled beginnings.

As a small orchestra played traditional Middle Eastern instruments, people crowded into the center, where a photo exhibit of New York children of different ethnicities lined the walls.

Sharif El-Gamal, the center’s developer, said the biggest error on the project was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start.

“We made incredible mistakes,” El-Gamal told The Associated Press in an earlier interview at his Manhattan office.

The building at 51 Park Place, two blocks from the World Trade Center site, includes a Muslim prayer space that has been open for two years. El-Gamal said the overall center is modeled after the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he lives.

“I wanted my daughter to learn how to swim, so I took her to the JCC,” said the Brooklyn-born Muslim. “And when I walked in, I said, ‘Wow. This is great.'”

Continue Reading on www.usatoday.com