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Eveleth, Minn. — The Wellstones' plane went down in the woods close to the Eveleth airport. About a quarter of a mile from the spot, a private group is putting up a historical marker and some benches. The place is just a small clearing in the woods next to a quiet county road. On Saturday, the clearing was filled with a stage and people on lawn chairs.
Musicians played some songs, and about a dozen people took turns at the microphone to say something about Sen. Wellstone and his wife, Sheila.
A labor organizer told the crowd that Paul Wellstone would want them not to mourn, but to "organize and fight." A minister read from Psalms. A high school kid spoke, and so did Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar and federal Judge Donovan Frank.
Lisa Pattni opened and closed the ceremony. She ran Wellstone's northern Minnesota office, and she was waiting to meet the Wellstones at the Eveleth airport when their plane crashed.
"It's been a tough year," she told the crowd. "My heart is still full of sorrow. I miss them."
Pattni called Sen. Wellstone "a fighter for social justice."
"And in a day and age when it's so easy for people to be cynical, Paul was an optimist," she said. "He was a man who believed in government, and helped others believe that we, as a society, could do more together than we can alone, and that that government makes a difference for people, and that the effort is always worth it."
On Friday, October 25, 2002, the day of the crash, Wellstone had a debate scheduled in Duluth. But first he was flying to the Iron Range to attend a funeral for the father of state Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia. At Saturday's ceremony, Rukavina told the crowd at the crash site that Paul Wellstone had called him the day after his father died.
"He said I'll see you Friday," Rukavina said.
Rukavina told Wellstone to tend to his campaign and forget the funeral. But Wellstone told Rukavina he was coming to the funeral, for the Rukavina family, and because the senior Rukavina "was a great guy."
"And that was the thing about Paul Wellstone," Rukavina said to the crowd at the crash site. "Every one of us, whether we were a student, whether we were a steelworker or a logger or a teacher or a retiree, Paul Wellstone honestly believed in all of our greatness."
A group called Wellstone Action is raising money to design and build a monument that will be placed on the site of Saturday's ceremony -- just a few hundred yards from where the Wellstones' plane crashed.