Without any funding to pay for the memorial and less than a year to construct it before the 10th anniversary, Hess garnered support from local community leaders and political figures such as Mike Pence, Greg Ballard, Andre Carson, the Chief of Police, and the Fire Chief – all of whom wrote letters in support of Hess’s mission to create a 9/11 Memorial in Indianapolis.
"We didn't have a dime, but yet, everybody had faith in everybody else," Hess said. “It just goes to prove to people that Hoosiers will come together for a common cause, and if the cause is something as significant as this, then obviously a lot of people want to get involved.”
Officially opened on September 11, 2011, at 421 West Ohio Street in Downtown Indianapolis, and expanded for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in 2021, the Indiana 9/11 Memorial honors those who perished in the 9/11 attacks and the United States service members who lost their lives in the War on Terror.
The existing memorial consisted of two 11,000-pound beams from the Twin Towers, a pair of 6-foot-tall black granite walls inscribed with remembrances of the events in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Elements added during the memorial’s recent expansion include the Pentagon Stone, the Survivor Tree, the Military Monument, and the Never Forget Wall.
Perched atop one of the Twin Tower beams is a life-size bronze sculpture of an American bald eagle with outstretched wings gazing east toward New York City. This tribute – which Hess said is his favorite element within the memorial – stands as an ongoing, permanent reminder of the sacrifices made on 9/11 and of our nation’s response to that day’s devastating events.
Director of the Indiana War Memorial and retired USAF Brigadier General Stewart Goodwin said he and the team working on the 9/11 Memorial expansion simply requested a piece of stone from the Pentagon wall for the memorial, not expecting to receive an artifact that carried so much weight both literally and symbolically.
“The 800-pound chunk of stone they gave us actually looks like an outline of the state of Indiana,” Goodwin said.
Made entirely of Indiana lines quarried from world-renowned limestone deposits near Bedford, Indiana, the Pentagon Stone pays tribute to officers like Hoosier Lieutenant General Timothy J. Maude. At the time of his service as the U.S. Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Maude was the highest-ranking officer to die by the actions of a foreign enemy since U.S. Army Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., who was killed during the Battle of Okinawa in June 1945 during World War II.
Another feature implemented during the expansion is the Survivor Tree. Grown from a Callery pear tree sapling found at the bottom of the Ground Zero rubble, this sapling was provided by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York and is said to embody our nation’s spirit of hope, healing, strength, and resilience
The Military Monument is a granite stone placed inside the memorial made to honor the nine Hoosiers who lost their lives on 9/11. A Never Forget Wall overlooks the adjacent White River canal with the words “NEVER FORGET” etched into the Indiana limestone foundation.
Goodwin said aside from Washington, D.C., Indianapolis has more war memorials than any other city in the nation. Located in highly visible and accessible destinations around downtown Indianapolis, Indiana War Memorials are designed to last decades and evoke emotional responses from visiting patrons.
Hess said he is most proud of the fact that this memorial will provide younger generations with a better understanding of the sacrifices made by Hess and his fellow servicemen following the 9/11 attacks.
“These memorials need to last lifetimes, and it takes a special vision to create and build these types of structures that will last hundreds of years,” said Tom Fansler, CEO at Smock Fansler – General Contractor for the Indiana 9/11 Memorial. “It’s about creating places that people want to be, that are meaningful, that rally people around a cause, that break down barriers between individuals, and that create a united focal point.”
Fansler said projects like the Indiana 9/11 Memorial afford rare opportunities to Indiana designers and constructors who embrace challenging and rewarding projects.
“Creating a memorial pulls at you every way that you possibly can be pulled in because so often as a society, things are built for the short term,” said Fansler. “But in this case, we’re making aesthetically pleasing structures designed for decades if not millennia, which requires a tremendous amount of forethought, appropriate application, and understanding of maintenance. It’s a huge test that’s very worthy of what is created.”