9/11 Commission Goes On Offense

Here’s the text of a message I personally received September 26th from the Chairman of the Arizona 9/11 Commission:

I’m writing to you as the Chairman of the 9/11 Memorial Commission. I represent the group that has spent years researching, designing and raising private donations to build a memorial to the tragedy of 9/11. The Memorial now proudly stands in Wesley Bolin Plaza at the Arizona State Capitol, thanks to the involvement of more than 30,000 Arizonans.

My point in writing is to thank you for your support, and to share with you more about the Memorial, how it was created, and how it will educate future generations of Arizonan’s and make sure we never forget the loss of lives and experiences on 9/11, which are still affecting us today in so many ways.

  • The Arizona 9/11 Commission was created in 2003 by Executive Order 2003-02 by then-Governor Jane Dee Hull. The legislature unanimously passed HB 2350 in 2003 to allow the memorial to be built in Wesley Bolin Plaza.
  • The Commission included family members of those who died in the terrorist attacks, a survivor, business leaders, clergy and Arizona’s first responders who participated in the Search and Rescue mission at the World Trade Center in the days and weeks that followed the terrorist attacks.
  • It is a bi-partisan Commission with a non-political purpose.
  • The work of the Commission was done in more that fifty public meetings, with notice posted in advance, and open to all that chose to attend.
  • The memorial was paid for with contributions from private corporations and individuals. The Governor assisted in fundraising. The Governor did not have editorial control over the content of the memorial. The Commission and the artist team spent many hours discussing and debating the final quotes, with the purpose of expressing the history, experience and feelings on and after 9/11.
  • The family members on the Commission were clear that they did not want or need another headstone. The consensus was that this Memorial should be a place of reflection.
  • To create the memorial a nation wide search for artist was initiated, with a requirement that the team have an Arizona presence. After a lengthy public bid and selection process the Commission contracted with CoLAB Jones Studio, Inc. to design and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. to build the memorial.
  • The 54 quotes and dates used in the memorial came from two sources.
    • The first is the bipartisan national 9/11 Commission that was appointed by President Bush.
    • The second, from oral interviews conducted by a public historian at Arizona State University’s History Department. ASU was hired by the Commission to conduct interviews and collect information from Arizonans who had personal connections to the tragedies.
  • The quotes were fact-checked by advisers to the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission and approved by the Commission. The final statements in the memorial were selected to show a range of thoughts and feelings regarding Arizona’s experiences with 9-11 and timelines of what happened on that day and since.
  • At the dedication ceremony on 9/11/06, Commission member Donna Bird of Tempe, whose husband Gary died in the attacks, called the memorial “comforting and dynamic” and that its materials of both concrete and steel showed the nation’s ability to move on with “steel resolve of Americans to embrace our future, with no fear.” More than 2500 people attended the ceremony to remember the victims of 9/11 and dedicate the new Memorial.
  • The quotes include the final words of victims who called their families before losing contact, and phrases describing the hopelessness felt by Arizonans after the attacks. Also included in the inscriptions are patriotic messages and other statements in support of the United States and its leaders. A few examples:
    • FLIGHT 93 PASSENGERS FIGHT HIJACKERS
    • “MUST BOMB BACK”
    • MULTIPLE FUNERALS IN A DAY
    • PATRIOTISM PEAKS
    • US AIRSTRIKES HIT KABUL & KANDAHAR
    • US PATRIOT ACT SIGNED INTO LAW
    • REMEMBER!
    • “I’LL BE HOME FOR DINNER TUESDAY NIGHT”
    • FEELING OF INVINCIBILITY LOST
    • LAST FAINT WORDS “HELP ME”
    • DUG 8 HOURS ONLY FOUND ONE HELMET STRAP
    • 216 AZ FIREFIGHTERS RESPOND TO WTC
    • 9:29 AM PRESIDENT ASKS NATION TO JOIN IN MOMENT OF SILENCE
  • Working with staffers of State Education Superintendent Tom Horne at the State Department of Education, the Commission developed a voluntary 9/11 curriculum for grades k-12 that teachers can access on the Dept. of Ed web site. This effort was led by Steve Speisman, a Commissioner and teacher, who lost his brother Robby on the flight that hit the Pentagon.

The Memorial is a lasting tribute to the victims of 9/11, and the family members and survivors expressed at the dedication that it was healing for them.

It will also fulfill the mission of educating future generations of Arizonan’s about the tragic losses, the emotions, and the way we came together as American’s.

Thank you again, and I hope that you will visit the Memorial many times.

Billy Shields
Chairman
Arizona 9/11 Memorial Commission


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