Arizonans found strength among one another Monday as they dedicated a memorial sculpture to honor the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“My emotions are very positive, not only because of the memorial, but because of all the people,” said Tempe resident Donna Bird, whose husband, Gary, died when the World Trade Center collapsed.
Hundreds of families and friends, police officers and firefighters, politicians and students gathered at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix to officially open the 9/11 memorial.
The sculpture incorporates a piece of steel salvaged from the Twin Towers, concrete rubble taken from the Pentagon and soil transported from the field in Shanksville, Pa., where a hijacked jetliner crashed.
The sculpture, called “Moving Memories,” includes descriptions and quotes about the attacks and reactions.
Words appear as light cast on a shadow as the sun shines through lettering stenciled into steel. Among the messages:
“8:46 a.m. Flt 11 strikes WTC North Tower.”
“9:03 a.m. Flt 175 strikes WTC South Tower.”
“09 15 01. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, murdered in Mesa.”
“Scottsdale students founded cultural understanding organization.”
Artists Matt Salenger, Maria Salenger and Eddie Jones intended for visitors to enter into the circle to read the messages, symbolizing that Sept. 11 brought Americans together.
The words drift into place and then slip away from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., encouraging visitors to stay at the memorial for extended periods.
Gov. Janet Napolitano told the nearly 1,000 people attending the dedication that the memorial was built to preserve the meaning of that day for future generations.
The mood during the 90-minute ceremony often was somber, particularly during video montages that showed news clips of the attacks, rescue operations and funerals in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania.
Many of the speakers and musical performers held back tears as they recalled loved ones.
Among the New York firefighters who died was John McAvoy, who had just gotten off his night shift when the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center, said his younger brother, Michael.
After watching members of his fire station’s day shift rush to the site, John McAvoy and another firefighter suited up and took a taxi to the burning buildings. They went inside to help.
Michael McAvoy, a broker, watched the buildings burn from his own office building a quarter-mile away, then walked to the site looking for his brother and his best friend, James Ladley, who worked in the Twin Towers. Neither survived.
“If your next question is about closure, don’t ask it. There is no closure,” said Michael McAvoy, 47, who moved to the Valley 15 months ago, in part, to be away from the memories of that day.
Scottsdale resident Lori McKeating, 45, said she feels more connected to the events now because her son’s teacher at Shadow Mountain High School lost a brother in the attacks.
“We feel a lot more emotional about it,” said McKeating, who attended the service with her son, Vincent.
His teacher, Steve Speisman, sang “History Moves With the Sun” during the dedication.
Speisman’s brother, Bob, was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
After the dedication, Bird said it was an honor to be part of the ceremony, but she hopes the event marked the final day of looking back at 9/11. She wants the country to make the transition to the future.
“I embrace my future with joy and hope and great expectations,” she said. “Next year, I hope I’m anonymous.”
- Tribune writer Dennis Welch contributed to this report