PHOENIX - A decade after terrorists felled the World Trade Center towers, Arizona legislators continue to argue over what should and should not be included in a state memorial.
A Senate panel voted last week to force removal of panels in the ring-shaped memorial across from the Capitol, eliminating 11 phrases some lawmakers consider irrelevant at best and offensive at worst. The measure awaits action, likely this coming week, by the full Senate.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who is leading the fight that started when the memorial was dedicated in 2006, said excising the phrases is the only way to end the controversy.
"It's dividing us and it's making people terribly upset," he argued.
But the legislation, HB 2230, is itself proving divisive. The four Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee said the move is off base.
"This is about who gets to write history," said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson.
She said all of the sayings cut into the monument reflect some element of what occurred not only the day of the attack but other developments around that time.
But Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, said all that takes away from the purpose of having a memorial. He said it should have only "patriotic, pro-American words."
Most of the more than four-dozen statements reflect a timeline of the day's events, including not just the attacks on the twin towers but also the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon as well as a fourth plane headed for the White House that passengers forced down in a Pennsylvania field.
Reflections that have drawn criticism include "Fear of foreigners" while another says, "Must bomb back." Those involved with the original design said these sentiments reflected some of the feelings of Arizonans in the wake of the attacks.
The legislation also would force removal of a reference to the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi in Mesa four days after the attack. The shooter presumed that Sodhi, a Sikh who wore a turban, must have been an Arab.
The bill also would remove some political statements, including "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles," and a reference to a 2002 hearing in which members of Congress questioned why the CIA and the FBI did not prevent the attacks.
"I don't deny there is a relationship," Kavanagh said of the phrases. But he said they're not "relevant" for a memorial. "This is a memorial," Kavanagh said. "This is like a gravestone. It shouldn't have controversy."
HB 2230 would require the state to remove panels that include 11 of the sayings. Kavanagh said the state could raise enough through donations to re-carve the panels without the offending words and have it re-done for the 10th anniversary later this year.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the memorial was designed through a public process, and when questions first arose, the commission that designed it voted to remove two of the sayings.
"While the words on that memorial may not be words that any or all of us agree with ... they reflect the reality of some Americans' feelings," she said.
The offending words
Phrases the legislation would remove from the memorial
• Fear of foreigners
• 09 15 01 Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, murdered in Mesa
• Foreign-born Americans afraid
• Feeling of invincibility lost
• Must bomb back
• You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles
• Violent acts leading US to war: 05 07 1915, 12 07 1941, 08 04 1964 & 09 11 2001
• 06 03 02 Congress questions why CIA & FBI didn't prevent attacks
• FBI agent issues July 2001 warning in "Phoenix Memo"
• 03 13 02 New Afghan leader elected
• Middle East violence motivates attacks in U.S.