Monument Valley

Last week, this park-lovin' pigeon decided to take advantage of P-town's "cold snap" of highs in the 90s and flap down to Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, right across from the Arizona State Capitol, for a summer stroll through that public promenade filled with monuments both large and small, both moving and dumb-ass.

Among the moving are the 10-ton anchor and the signal mast from the USS Arizona, the battleship so valiantly lost during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There's also a grim tribute to Arizonans who fell in Vietnam, marked by a half-circle of black monoliths inscribed with the names of the dead. And equally stirring, a two-ton bell housed in a pagoda that honors those from the Grand Canyon State who gave their lives during the Korean War.

Then there are the rare, the odd and the downright nutty: Like one erected in 1968 to "Arizona's Pioneer Women"; a slab dedicated in 1990 to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps; the broadly worded Arizona Workers Memorial for all those who "suffered death on the job" (huh?); the Armenian Martyrs Memorial commemorating the Armenian genocide; a marker for Arizona Crime Victims; a headstone-like representation of the Ten Commandments — minus an effigy of Charlton Heston as Moses, thankfully; and even an Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Memorial, complete with a statue of a German shepherd, for those courageous cop pooches who died in the line of dog duty.

Right next to the Korean War Pagoda, there's another memorial under construction — and for this birdbrain's money, it's the wackiest yet.

When finished, this one will look like a Frisbee with a hole in the middle, albeit a 40-feet-in-diameter Frisbee made of steel. It's the Arizona 9/11 Memorial, the latest absurdity from our skunk-coifed Governor Janet Napolitano, aimed at nabbing yet another shameless photo-op for the Do Nothing Democrat oh-so-conveniently close to election day.

Actually, the number of photo-ops Napolitano's milked this one for would put goofy old Sheriff Joe Arpaio to shame.

First there was the press conference back in 2004 with Napolitano surrounded by firefighters and cops announcing the drive to raise $500,000 to pay for the design and building of the memorial. Then there was the groundbreaking ceremony earlier this year with Napolitano joined by Phoenix Mayor Phil "Pinto" Gordon, and political gadfly Billy Shields, prez of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters union, who spearheaded the effort as head of the Governor's Commission on the memorial. Finally, there'll be the solemn dedication ceremony this September 11.

And guess who'll be riveting us with her gubernatorial remarks?

Looking past Janet's political posturing for a moment, the problem is: We're in freakin' Arizona! This isn't Lower Manhattan, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center used to sit. Nor is it Washington, D.C., where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the side of the Pentagon. Nor is it anywhere near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 crashed. What's the point of erecting a public "memorial" when this state's connection to the 9/11 tragedy is tenuous, at best?

Unless you want to include the fact that AZ flight schools trained at least one of the hijackers or that a couple of them lived in the Valley at one time or another. The guv's not mentioning that, natch.

Both Billy Shields' office and architect Eddie Jones — whose firm collaborated on the ginormous metal Frisbee with members of the local design firm coLAB — pointed to Gary Bird of Tempe (no relation, folks), who was in Tower Two of the WTC when it collapsed, as well as a few others who had formerly been residents of Arizona, and still had family in the state.

But this isn't like Vietnam or Korea, where Arizona's loss of life was substantial, or even the USS Arizona, christened after the state itself. Hell, the link's greater between Hurricane Katrina and Arizona (there are thousands of evacuees here, as well as families of evacuees. See "Desert Storm," July 13). So why in the holy name of crawfish étouffée don't we erect an expensive monument to that tragedy as well?

Boy, was the guv's communications director, Jeanine L'Ecuyer, glad this winged wonder asked that question! She emphasized that there were "no state dollars involved," as all of the funds for the project came from corporate and individual donations. She also stressed that "a lot of other people besides the governor think [the 9/11 memorial's] important," so dammit, why not?!

"When you get a group of citizens who feel strongly this is something they very much want to do, why resist that?" L'Ecuyer said. "I may have been in Arizona, but I was profoundly affected by what I watched on TV that morning. And I'd suspect this isn't the only state outside New York that has such 9/11 memorials."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons