It was less than an hour into the school day but Desert Vista High School ceramics teacher Mark Honaker had already formed more than a dozen clay bowls in the corner of his classroom one morning.
His goal was to make a couple hundred that day.
Using a small piece of concrete found on a nearby roof from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Honaker makes a spiral groove into the soft, wet clay while it’s spinning, uniting each bowl together.
This year, Honaker aims to make 343 commemorative bowls before Sept. 11. Once completed, they will be available in the school’s bookstore for $100 each. All proceeds will then be sent to the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center that treats people with health conditions related to the attacks 11 years ago.
The number 343 represents the number of uniformed lives lost during the first moments of the tower’s collapse, according to Honaker.
With his own brother being a former Tempe firefighter, also on scene at the World Trade Center that day, the cause especially hits close to home.
“There are so many stories, and it puts it into perspective,” Honaker said.
He said the idea of making bowls came from a hope that they would be integrated into people’s lives.
“I wanted to be able to decorate the surface of something,” Honaker said. “It’s like a canvas, and it’s useful.”
As a catchall dish for keys or spare change, he said the accessibility of it is important, and hopes the bowls don’t just “collect dust on a shelf.”
The bowls will also feature an imprint of the wreckage from a copper stencil, Honaker said.
Since Honaker began teaching at Desert Vista eight years ago, he has made it a tradition to heighten awareness of the anniversary of the attacks. Whether it be bowl sales, slideshows of photographs from the wreckage and attacks, to the biggest event to date with last year’s “experience” that included a simulated hallway of the World Trade Center.
Now putting the bowl sales to rest, Honaker said it is “bittersweet.”
“It becomes a little harder every year with the budget,” said Honaker, who mentioned he will be sending the piece of concrete back to New York this year.
Honaker’s ceramics class is known on campus as the hub of outreach and service opportunities, one student said.
Carly Contract, a senior at Desert Vista, said Honaker’s “passion for the community” is known by all.
“You can’t take this class without being absorbed into one of his projects,” Contract said.
With about 300 students in the ceramics department, some made extra efforts last week helping Honaker get the clay cut and ready.
In Honaker’s ceramics room, a three-panel collage that nearly reached the ceiling stood in the middle of the room. In front of a spray-painted style backdrop, photographs of Ground Zero, firefighters and prayer vigils were hung under lists of victim names.
In relation to 9/11, Honaker said he will “always make an effort to do something.”
The commemorative bowls will go on sale at Desert Vista’s library on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Desert Vista is located at 16440 S. 32nd St.
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