MARSHALL, MINN. - More than 150 firefighters, middle school students and residents gathered Tuesday at Marshall's 9/11 Memorial Park for a prayer service to honor the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The 20-minute service, which started with a short prayer, ended with Fire Chief Marc Klaith and Police Chief Rob Yant placing a multi-colored memorial wreath on the park's centerpiece -- a nearly 10-foot, 600-pound steel vertical box beam that once helped support one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

The rusted beam, which Marshall resident Craig Schafer pulled from the ruins a year after the attack, tilts slightly toward New York in honor of those who lost their lives and those who tried to save them.

"It was a simple, humble ceremony," Schafer said as dozens of residents lingered to touch the beam and inspect the memorial, dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Schafer said that one of the highlights of the day came after the ceremony, when a Marshall Middle School teacher asked her students to go home, interview their parents and write a paper describing how Sept. 11 changed their lives.

"That's what this is all about," said Schafer, an emergency response specialist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency who inspected the Twin Tower ruins at a Staten Island landfill as part of his job.

"These kids were like 2 years old when this happened. Now they get to think about it, and they have to start to understand. They only know the world post-9/11. They don't understand how significantly lives changed.

"And that was the piece we wanted them to understand when we were building this. It's so important that their kids and their grandkids be able to come back here and know how real that event was."

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425