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Sandblasters work on 9/11 memorial

By Mackenzie Ryan

St. Cloud Times

COLD SPRING, Minn. -- Mark Schramel stands in the same spot he was almost five years ago, when the world changed.

"I was standing right here when I heard it on the radio," he said. "I first thought it was a small plane."

But it wasn't. A jetliner had flown into one World Trade Center tower, then a second. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and then another in Pennsylvania.

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The attacks unfolded more than a thousand miles away, but they resonated in homes and businesses nationwide.

And now, almost five years later, Schramel stands in the same spot, sandblasting into granite the names of those who died that day.

3,024.

That's how many names Schramel, with other employees of Cold Spring Granite Co., are sandblasting into 22 panels of granite.

The panels will be placed on 11 sides of a memorial to commemorate victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

The memorial will stand on the New Jersey waterfront, facing where the twin towers once stood.

"Each one, you start to feel some of the pain," stone worker Tim Keenan said.

Each name he touches represents dozens of people affected that day -- family, friends, colleagues and survivors, he said.

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"By producing it in granite, etching the names in, it's providing someplace for family, friends and visitors to go to, to touch the names, to take rubbings," said Amy Mergen, the graphic design supervisor on the project.

Granite is a sign of permanence, she said. Of strength.

More than 100 employees have helped create part of the memorial -- from quarrying granite in northern Minnesota to packaging the final panels for shipment.

"It's such an honor to be part of the project," Mergen said. "But you look at each name, you know there are family and friends behind each name,"

Russian President Vladimir Putin is commissioning the memorial as a gift to the United States, and it will be dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

For Dan Weber, who is also a volunteer firefighter with the Cold Spring department, preparing the granite panels for the memorial strikes a chord.

"This, it hits home," Weber said.

The company has been part of creating the FDR and Korean War memorials in Washington, among other large memorials nationwide. But this one, some say, is different.

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"It gets personal sometimes," said Chad Roste, the project's manager. "You look at the names, and you get kind of an eerie feeling."

Maybe because the attacks happened so recently. Or because that day changed the nation. Or because you remember the moment -- forever etched in memory like the names etched in granite -- when you heard the news.

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