Reporting Mike Binkley
MARSHALL, Minn. (WCCO) – After the 9/11 investigation at Ground Zero was complete, officials allowed parts of the Twin Towers to be donated for memorials.
One twisted beam ended up in southwestern Minnesota, in the city of Marshall.
History buff Craig Schafer thought his town would be a perfect spot for it.
“Even though we didn’t personally lose anybody that I’m aware of here in Marshall, it still affected us,” Schafer said. “Those were attacks on America.”
A section of steel that used to support the World Trade Center is now prominently displayed in the heart of Marshall. Schafer drove it there himself.
“It’s about ten or 11 feet tall,” he said, “estimated weight somewhere between 600 and a thousand pounds.”
It was offered by the FBI during safety seminars in New York after 9/11.
Schafer, who’s with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, was there as an emergency response specialist.
“My attitude is, why not every town?” he said. “Every town should have something.”
Marshall has made it the centerpiece of its redevelopment efforts, with a new memorial park built around it along Main Street.
The beam is slightly angled, in the direction of New York.
Marshall’s Director of Community Services, Harry Weilage, said the park has become a big draw for the downtown area.
“We had so many people that came forward and said ‘How can we help?’ Weilage said. “That’s what you get in a town of 14,000.”
The park is filled with symbolic markers including three thousand stars in the pavers — black stars representing civilian deaths, blue stars for police and red stars for firefighters.
A statue of a firefighter stands near the steel beam.
“My goal is to end up putting a military (statue) here also and law enforcement,” said fire chief Marc Klaith, “once we get those things worked out.”
The park represents new life in the years since the attacks, while also setting up a reminder for the years ahead.
“I hope and think that it’ll be important to others in the future,” Schafer said, “that when we’re long gone, they can still come here and touch a piece of that day.”
Marshall’s memorial was designed by an architect from Chaska, Gene Ernst.
Every night, a 1,000-watt bulb shoots light through the top of the steel beam.