Remembering the 35W bridge victims

On this day 10 years ago, I was among the first to arrive on the scene of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I was walking along the Mississippi with a friend when we heard a muffled “whump.” From our vantage point on the Stone Arch Bridge we could see only a cloud of dust.

Then a man came running toward us yelling, “The bridge is gone.” None of us could grasp what had happened as we ran down Old Main Street, parallel to the river.

The dust had just begun to settle when we reached the collapsed bridge. It was eerily quiet. As I stood at the edge of the ravine and saw the crumpled cars below, I thought I was looking at a mass grave. But then people started climbing out of their cars, one by one.

Bridge collapse 10 years BLOG

My friend and I wanted to help, but the bluffs along the river were too steep and far too tall. Some of the people on the bridge comforted each other while help arrived.

I didn’t hear anyone scream, nor did I see many signs of panic. (Later, when I met some of the survivors, I learned they were struggling to understand where they were.)

The bridge has long since been rebuilt, and most Minnesotans seem to have moved on. But we haven’t all forgotten.

Today, my thoughts are with the friends and families of the 13 people who died; the 200 survivors — some of whom are still working to overcome their injuries and fears; and the hundreds of emergency-response personnel who risked their lives that day to save others.

We’ll remember you.

Bridge collapse memorial 3 BLOG

I remember you.