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SAWYER, Minn. — Deacon Bryan Bassa stood on the bare ground in the filtered light of a small log building. The fragrance of wet earth and fresh-cut wood combined around him. The sound of hammers ringing on the roof above him were, to Bassa, as sweet as the music that once filled this original home of Saints Mary & Joseph Catholic Church. "When I became a deacon seven years ago, six years ago, this was my goal: to get this church fixed," the 69-year-old retired schoolteacher said. "This is history. This is the history of the people around here."
MOOSE LAKE, Minn. — A slender woman with short gray hair sat in a booth at Art's Cafe, holding a cup of steaming coffee with both hands. Around the little restaurant on Moose Lake's main drag, a lively Friday morning crowd filled most of the booths and tables, sharing stories and opinions. Some were enjoying 45-cent cups of coffee, quickly refilled by attentive servers. A man used a fork to methodically work his way through one of Art's Cafe's massive cinnamon rolls.
CLOQUET, Minn. — When a jump from a plane went wrong, it did so much damage to Brian Grundtner's body that he couldn't even think about what it did to his brain. "I remember hitting the ground," said Grundtner, 40, who now lives in Cloquet with his wife, Michelle Grundtner. "I remember thinking, 'All right, I'm alive.' I wiggled my fingers, wiggled my toes; those were fine. And I turned my neck side to side, so I thought, 'All right, my spinal cord isn't severed.' "And then I went to move my torso and I felt — "
Jim Carter and Andrea Kuzel were gliding across the ballroom floor in Duluth's Norway Hall, soft piano music accompanying them. Carter, athletic and bald-headed, wore black pants and a black, short-sleeved shirt carrying the logo of the company he owns, SOS Leak Repair. Kuzel wore an elegant, mid-length black dress. Occasionally, Kuzel, 39, added a dramatic flair, gesturing outward with one hand or placing a hand on top of her head. Carter, 60, led with suave confidence.
Marc Davey produced family pictures. Judith Hazen came with a binder filled with mementos from a previous occasion. It was the sort of thing one might expect to see at a reunion of two people after more than 21 years apart -- but with a difference. "Well I have to tell you, I don't remember what you looked like," Hazen told Davey.
DULUTH, Minn.—Shadab Rahman's business is sleep, but it wasn't his dream job. "I needed a summer research project," the Harvard Medical School instructor said. "The only available lab was in Toronto. ... They studied sleep." That was when Rahman, now 36, was an undergraduate with an interest in cardiovascular medicine. His summer in Toronto led to a second summer as a research associate at the same lab and then work at another Toronto lab with the same mentor as he achieved his doctorate degree.
EVELETH, Minn.—More isn't necessarily better when it comes to air ambulance service. "Having a helicopter is good for a rural community," said Tom Judge, executive director of LifeFlight of Maine, the only air ambulance service in Maine. "Are more helicopters better? ... At some point, all of these helicopters, that's part of what's driven up (costs)."
DULUTH — Being poked with needles sounds unpleasant, but acupuncture doesn't hurt, Dr. Like He said. "The needle insertion itself really doesn't hurt," He said. "I don't want them to feel a sharp pain." If there is a sharp pain, it usually means the needle is penetrating a tiny blood vessel, He said. But what the patient should feel is the deqi sensation, a sort of numbness or tingling. "If they don't feel anything at all, usually the result is not as good," He said.
DULUTH — William Brown was reluctant to try acupuncture as a treatment for his chronic lower back pain. "I was very concerned about it," the 70-year-old Solon Springs, Wis., man said. "I guess I'm like everyone else in that I think acupuncture is ... witchcraft."
DULUTH — Sister Judine Mayerle stood in a basement passageway, one hand on a massive white column. "I think this is really cool," the Benedictine nun said, with almost the same respect in her voice with which she might speak of a religious icon. "This is holding up the building." The column, accessible down a corridor lined with excess furnishings, is one of the footings holding up Tower Hall, built as "Villa Sancta Scholastica" in the first decade of the 1900s and now the landmark building on the campus of the College of St. Scholastica.