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Arizona Capitol Times September 15, 2006

Light, metal, reflection

By Christian Palmer

Hundreds gathered in Wesley Bolin Plaza for the unveiling of Arizona’s memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor the bravery of the state’s firefighters, police officers and members of the military

The memorial, dedicated five years after the assaults that killed almost 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Penn., is the result of years of meetings of the Governor’s 9-11 Commission.

The privately funded monument contains metal from the 42nd floor of World Trade Center’s north tower, rubble from the Pentagon and earth from the Pennsylvania field where one of the four hijacked planes crashed after a passenger insurrection.

Its circular metal canopy has been laser inscribed to include testimonials, reactions, facts, and a timeline of the coordinated terror inspired by a radical interpretation of Islam.

The portion of the beam from the north tower of the World Trade Center sits on the northern edge of the memorial to maximize the illumination by the sun’s position on each Sept. 11.

The original design was appreciated by member of the commission, who touted its value as a tool for reflection and education.

“One thing we didn’t want — if you look around Wesley Bolin Plaza — some of the war memorials look like tombstones,” said Cindy Petrovich, whose son Shawn, a Marine, participated in the invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. “We wanted something that would evoke thought.”

Ms. Petrovich is also enthusiastic about an educational curriculum to teach and foster discussion relating to the terrorist attack and its implications for grades kindergarten through high school.

Dozens of fire engines from various Arizona departments lined Adams Street during the ceremony, with two erected rescue ladders crossing paths at a 45-degree angle and dangling an enormous American flag.

Governor Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard attended, as did members of the branches of the armed forces, police departments and immigration enforcement agencies.

Billy Shields, head of United Phoenix Firefighters Association, recalled to the large audience his experience in Manhattan when he and other Arizona firefighters traveled to Ground Zero in New York.

While in awe of the “smoking pile” that covered 16 acres, he said he watched people distributing homemade fliers with the likenesses of missing loved ones.

He contrasted the tragic attack and the heroic efforts of its victims, and the ensuing work of emergency personnel as the “worst in humanity and the best in humanity.”

Donna Bird, whose husband Gary was killed in the World Trade Center attack, remembered his lack of enthusiasm for New York City because the skyscrapers obscured his vision of the horizon.

She praised the permanence of the powerful steel memorial and told the audience, including six other attending families that lost relatives, that America is “incapable” of forgetting the event that has become part of the nation’s “soul.”

“We suffered together then and we remember together today,” she said.

One guest at the event thought the most lasting effect of the extraordinary violence of Sept. 11, was the resulting broken sense of security of U.S. citizens and the modern departure of civility and basic human responsibilities.

“We as Americans are very trustworthy,” said Terry Piestewa, father of Pfc. Lori Piestewa, who was killed in Iraq in March 2003 when her convoy was attacked. “I know we are as a family,” he said. “We like to invite people and see people all the time and be there for them if they need us. It’s sad that the world is coming to that; that you can’t trust anybody anymore. It’s not good. It’s not what we were put on this Earth for.”

He was joined by his wife and Pfc. Piestewa’s two children, Brandon and Carla. The four traveled to attend the event from their home in Flagstaff.

The ceremony, which included a fly-over of F-16 fighter jets, occurred the same day a top deputy of Al-Qaeda commander Osama bin Laden issued a video release aired by the Arab media network Al-Jazeera.

The tape of Ayman al-Zawahiri promised the defeat of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also warned of future attacks against Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The buildings

Though most noted for its 110-story Twin Towers, the World Trade Center contained seven buildings in Manhattan. The site included a 47-story office building, a 22-story hotel and underground stations for three of the city’s subway systems. The World Trade Center contained more than 200,000 tons of steel and used 425,000 cubic yards of concrete, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

The World Trade Center held approximately 12 million square feet of office space and each tower contained 4.8 million gross square feet of floor area. The towers were the tallest in New York, and registered as the fifth and sixth tallest buildings in the world, according to the Web site.

More than 50,000 people worked in the center before its destruction and each day approximately 150,000 people passed through the WTC’s doors as tourists or visiting businessmen and women, states GlobalSecurity.org.

All of the trade center’s buildings were either destroyed as direct result of the terrorist attacks or by subsequent demolition due to substantial damages sustained from the collapsing of the twin towers.

The north tower of the World Trade Center was crashed into by the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which departed from Boston and was set to arrive in Los Angeles. The flight had 92 people on board.

Shortly after, United Airlines Flight 175 was hijacked and flown into the south tower. On board were nine flight crewmembers and 56 passengers.

The World Trade Center was also the target of a terrorist attack in 1993 by Al-Qaeda member Ramzi Yousef. Yousef was later sentenced to life in prison for his role in the truck bomb attack, according to the Department of Defense.

His uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is credited by government officials as being the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Mohammed is also believed to be responsible for the slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, a suicide bombing of a Tunisian synagogue that killed 21 people, and a plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Mohammed was apprehended in Pakistan in 2003, and wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, reports that he is currently held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Pentagon in Arlington, Va., was also the target of the Sept. 11 suicidal hijackings. It houses 23,000 military and civilian employees of the Department of Defense and an additional 3,000 non-defense workers. Built during World War II, the five-story, five-sided structure contains 17.5 miles of corridors and 100,000 miles of telephone cables, according to a Web site operated by the DOD.

The department reports that 125 service members, employees and contractors were killed, together with 64 people who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the military headquarters.

Hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, intended to strike the White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. However, by most media accounts they were thwarted when some of the 45 passengers attacked their captors after hearing news of the previous flights that crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The White House, which was commissioned for construction by Revolutionary commander-turned-president George Washington in 1790, survived an arson attempt by British forces during the War of 1812, a besieging by 20,000 protestors of the presidential election of Andrew Jackson in 1829, and another fire in the West Wing in 1929, according to the White House Web site.

The White House is the only private residence of a head of state that is open for public visitations free of charge, according to the site.

National organizers hope that by 2011 to complete a memorial to honor the “spontaneous courage and leadership” of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Penn..

The memorial, which is funded through public and private funds, was authorized on Sept. 24, 2002, when the Flight 93 National Memorial Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. The votes in the U.S. House and Senate were unanimous.


Copyright 2006, Arizona Capitol Times