PHOENIX – Eddie Jones’ favorite phrase on the 9/11 memorial he helped design reads, “You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles.” It’s just one passage among hundreds that the designers and memorial commmision researched for six months.
The phrase is passive, he said. It evokes peace.
Jones, one of three designers of “Moving Memories,” is weary of the controversy over the design, specifically about phrases that are integral to the memorial’s message. He doesn’t understand what he calls the political extremes.
“It never, ever was meant to be controversial,” he said, standing in the circular memorial and motioning toward its features.
And he hopes the memorial, which uses the passages to create a timeline of events surrounding 9/11, will eventually be understood for its meaningful layers instead rather than the controversy surrounding some of its phrases.
He said his design epiphany came after messing with cardboard cutouts at his house and holding them to a sunny window. That led to messages built into the memorial that project words below when the sun hits them.
Maria Salenger, another of the designers, then expanded the semicircle timeline to make a circle, which also made room for concrete benches.
The concrete base mimics the Pentagon’s shape.
A hole cut on one side of the canopy allows sunlight to illuminate a piece of metal from one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11 of each year.
Jones said each year that passes gives the designers hope that people will focus more on the meaning behind the memorial.
“You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles,” for example, is below a passage saying, “We must bomb back.” The phrase is aggressive, full of revenge.
The blank concrete space between these two phrases is intentional because it’s supposed to show all Arizonans’ viewpoints in between.
And the combination of letters and their shadows was designed to represent the approximate number of people killed in the attack.
“There are multiple layers of meaning, and I think that’s beautiful,” Jones said.
Salenger said the design shares common ground through a timeline of phrases illustrating conversations among Arizonans about the 9/11 attack.
The metal timeline comes to life as the sun rises and sends light through the phrases, which are cut through metal.
“It’s about looking at big- and small-scale effects,” she said. “It’s about sharing that.”
Jones said the phrases are first a blur, or an “illegible memory,” from the aftermath. But they become clear when the sun illuminates each phrase as it moves across the sky. Then, the lit words contrast against the dark concrete.
“I think that’s poetic, that these dots, these meaningful sparkles, actually grow together and become a word you can even hold in your hand if you want to.”
Jones said the words almost inhale and exhale when clouds cast shadows. It’s an organic process that invites visitors to contemplate, he said.
He likes when local schoolchildren visit the memorial because they aren’t “tainted” by politically charged emotion.
“They can take away whatever they want,” he said.
Jones said the memorial is powerful because it’s inclusive, honoring diverse viewpoints about 9/11.
“Isn’t that what we are?” he said.
Brittny Goodsell is a reporter for Cronkite News Service