Arizona's Sept. 11 Memorial Called Offensive

One of the phrases on Arizona's Sept. 11 memorial.

One of the phrases on Arizona's Sept. 11 memorial. John Tynan/KJZZ hide caption

itoggle caption John Tynan/KJZZ

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In Phoenix, a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has kicked up a political dust storm.

The cement and steel monument on the state's capital mall was meant to be a somber and respectful tribute to victims of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Instead, the memorial became something that is considered by many to be offensive. And some are saying it should be changed or taken down.

Wesley Bolin Plaza is a grassy lawn stretching east of Arizona's state Capitol. It's a quiet spot in otherwise busy Phoenix, and home to the state's monuments.

The newest addition is a 42-foot steel ring, tilting skyward. It looks like a giant halo. And as you walk under it, you can read several dozen inscriptions visible in the shadows of the cement base. The words touch on a number of subjects.

As Greg Patterson, a Republican state lawmaker, says, "It's a very stark memorial. And then when I started to read it, I realized that what it is, is a criticism of the United States!"

Patterson is offended by many of the inscriptions, which he says have nothing to do with remembering the victims of 9/11. The phrases are short; some are more provocative than others. "Congress questions why CIA and FBI didn't prevent attacks" and "Middle East violence motivates attacks in the US" are two that Patterson singles out.

One of the worst, he says, is "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles."

"I'm not saying these things can't be spoken," Patterson says. "But this is the official 9/11 memorial at the Arizona state Capitol grounds, and this is not how I want my family to remember 9/11, and I don't think it's how many Arizonans want to remember 9/11."

Members of the bipartisan commission that designed the monument say they were trying to be sensitive to the range of reactions to Sept. 11. But the criticisms haven't gone away.

One member of the commission is Phoenix firefigher Billy Shields. He defends the memorial's most controversial phrase, "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles," by pointing out that right next to it, it also say, "Must bomb back."

"Those two are there together and that again expresses the range of views that people had," Shields says. "And there are people still today, there were then, that feel both ways."

The memorial board plans to convenes again in January to discuss removing some of the phrases.

From member station KJZZ, Rene Gutel reports.

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