World Trade Center beam at center of Marshall 9/11 memorial

10:23 PM, Sep 7, 2011   |    comments
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MARSHALL, Minn. -- Like many communities around the nation, Marshall, Minnesota is getting ready to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

But it's a long journey from Marshall to New York City and a journey Craig Schafer could never measure in miles.

"This was about making milestones," says Craig.

Craig works for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and traveled to Ground Zero not long after 9/11 to learn more about the mechanics of debris removal.

"To try and gain knowledge. To do a lessons learned. The PCA is the lead debris agency in a disaster," says Craig. "It just blows me away what these people went through."

His government fact-finding mission soon turned into much more. Craig learned that some of the World Trade Center's metal beams were being saved as artifacts for future memorials. The folks in charge told Craig he could bring one home to Marshall and that's exactly what he did.

"Bringing this thing back. I never experienced anything like that. It was almost like bringing home a fallen friend," says Craig.

For 1,300 miles, Craig pulled the weight of the thousand pound steel beam on a trailer and in some senses, the weight of the world. He made a stop at the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania.

"It was an artifact from ground zero but the memorial and what we've had in mind is always to represent the entire day and the people at Shanksville, the people at the Pentagon," says Craig.

Craig brought the beam to Marshall nine years ago and since then this piece of history has been housed at the Marshall Fire Department.

Crews are still working on final touches, but the World Trade Center beam will soon become the centerpiece of a sprawling 9/11 memorial in downtown Marshall.

"You can see the red stars in the center. There's 343 of those and that represents the firefighters that lost their lives on 9/11 and then the blue stars are the first responders and the police officers and the black stars represent the civilians that lost their lives," says Marc Klaith, Marshall's Fire Chief.

"A lot people ask why Marshall. Why not? Why not every town. Everybody memorializes it in their own way," says Craig.

Craig Shafer hopes people will remember the victims and the sacrifices made after 9/11, like the soldiers killed, including those with ties to Marshall. Craigs own son, who was just a teenager on September 11, later served in Iraq and is still there working for the State Department.

"It's just hard to fathom and it happened so quickly and it was so absolute," says Craig about the events of September 11th.

The final piece of Marshall's 9/11 memorial now awaits its final resting place. It will stand tilted slightly toward New York. Craig, and other organizers want people to be able to see it and to touch it - the cold, bent steel left scarred September 11th, ripped almost like paper.

No one is certain what part of the building this beam came from. But today, Craig believes it represents the nation's strength that survived that day and honors those who didn't.

"This was a major turning point for the country and for the world and to have that tangible bit of history to help memorialize that to me was very important," says Craig. "There's 3000 souls here. This is 3000 souls."

The 9/11 Memorial will be dedicated in Marshall Sunday September 11, on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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