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Something Personal In Stainless Steel

"It felt great," Kaseman said. "We have been looking at this thing and spinning it around in the computer for so long. This is the first physical thing hat we can bang our foot against and see that is physical and real."

Beckman said it was moving to watch the way the foundry workers handled the bench. "They are real [respectful] of it," she said. "They are making sure they are not manhandling it too much, making sure it is being treated as a fragile object."

On hand for the emergence of the bench are, from left, James Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, Jill Dowling of Centex Lee, the design-build team; architect Julie Beckman; Rosemary Dillard, vice president of the fund; and architect Keith Kaseman. (Mary Butkus For The Washington Post)

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The bench is made of super duplex stainless steel, used in the reconstruction of the Statue of Liberty and in catapults on aircraft carriers because it is highly resistant to corrosion. That is important because the base of each bench will be submerged in a reflecting pool. The metal will be dent-proof, easy to maintain and have a life span of more than 100 years.

The pour took a little less time than was projected, two seconds to be exact. Upchurch, who helped build the mold, missed the pour Wednesday morning because he had a doctor's appointment. He got to the foundry 10 minutes late.

"Once I got here," he said in a phone interview from the foundry, "I found out everything was over, and so I sort of rested my back against one of the pillars and everyone was coming up to me and telling me I missed it. I was pretty sad. I almost cried."

Upchurch had another doctor's appointment Thursday morning, but he canceled that one. He wanted to help break away the mold (called the shakeout) since he knew how it was built as well as anyone, knew which parts to pick away at without damaging the bench.

"When I saw it come out," he said, "I was pretty overwhelmed. And after we got all the sand off it, I was on cloud, I was on cloud 27,000. I'd say it was the biggest natural rush I have ever had."

Upchurch and other foundry workers had a chance to meet Laychak and Dillard on Wednesday and Thursday and learned firsthand what families have been going through since losing their loved ones.

Dillard said she was so emotional watching the mold come off the bench that she had trouble describing how she felt.

"I think every family member will be so proud when they see the bench of their loved ones," she said. She added that watching the bench be made has motivated her to work even harder to get the memorial built. "Oh, my God," she said. "This is going to get me knocking on doors for money. I mean, we have got to get this finished. We have got to have this money."

Last week was the first step in the production process and was an opportunity for workers nearly a half a continent away to learn firsthand the impact their work has on the families of the victims of the attack.

"I don't believe it really hit home to me until after we went out in front of the [foundry] and took a group photo," said Barry Craig, manufacturing manager at the plant. "Rosemary [Dillard] started talking about how, seeing the bench, she was starting to feel closure. She told me how she was going to go home and talk to her husband about being able to move on. At that point, it really hit home to me what the whole project meant."

This is one in a series of occasional articles. For more coverage, go to www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/nation/specials/attacked/pentagon/

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