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Posts Tagged ‘I-35 Bridge Collapse’

bridge memorial 2012-07-28 22.21.48

I-35 Bridge Memorial – 36/365, Archive 365, Droid Shots, 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden, Minnesota, July 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I passed by the 35W Bridge Remembrance Garden three times over the last few weeks. Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 marked five years to the day since the I-35 bridge collapsed. The third time I drove by, I was traveling home from the Guthrie with Liz and her mother who was visiting from Wyoming.

Ironically, on August 1st, 2007, Liz’s mother was in the air on her way to Minneapolis when the bridge collapsed. Liz and I were folding laundry and doing last minute preparations for her visit, when we received a phone call from my mother in Pennsylvania asking if we were okay. Confused, we quickly turned on the TV to see that one of the busiest bridges in the Twin Cities had fallen into the Mississippi and was a twisted mass of concrete and steel.

Thirteen people died that day; 145 were injured. They had been going about their lives in what was until that moment, an ordinary day; it could have been any one of us. The Memorial to the victims and survivors of the 35W bridge collapse sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, next to Gold Medal Park. There was a dedication and opening ceremony for the 35W Memorial, August 1st, 2011. It is a quiet place where water falls over a granite wall inscribed with the names of the 145 survivors, and the words:

Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.

Last week, I listened to survivor Lindsay Walz tell her story from the perspective and wisdom of the passing of time (you can read her story at this link). On August 1st, she painted details on the back brace she wore for injuries sustained when the bridge collapsed. In addition to a broken back, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. She states that everyone’s recovery is as unique as their experience on the bridge that day. Some people are still dealing with ongoing crippling pain and can’t work. They can’t do things they used to take for granted. The survivors stay connected through a Facebook page; they are still there for each other.

The night I passed by Bohemian Flats, under the new I-35 bridge, and around the bend to the Memorial, I saw 13 steel girders lit in neon blue, one for each person who lost their lives. I felt compelled to slow down from all the busyness of summer, and remember their names. (To learn more about their lives, there are biographies at the links.)


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Sherry Engebretsen
Sherry Engebretsen knew how to take care of details, especially when it came to her daughters.

 

Artemio Trinidad-Mena
Originally from Mexico, Artemio lived in Minnesota for about 10 years, and worked at New York Plaza Produce in south Minneapolis for almost a year.

 

Julia Blackhawk
Julia Blackhawk had recently taken a new Indian name. The 32-year-old from Savage was given the name Thunder Woman during a pow-wow at Easter. Her uncle, John Blackhawk, is a Winnebago Tribal Council member. He says Julia was a kind person who always showed respect for her elders. And he says she had one attribute that was very special.

 

Patrick Holmes
Patrick Holmes, 36, of Mounds View, was found dead at the scene of the bridge collapse that same night. He was on his way home from work. His wife, Jennifer, heard the news a little after midnight.

 

Peter Hausmann
Peter Hausmann, 47, was a computer security specialist worked at Assurity River Group in St. Paul. The company’s president says Hausmann was a quiet leader and a man of faith.

 

Paul Eickstadt
Paul Eickstadt drove a delivery truck for Sara Lee Bakery for 14 years. He was just beginning his shift, on his way to Iowa, when the 35W bridge collapsed. Eickstadt, 51, lived in Mounds View. He is survived by a brother and two sisters.

 

Greg Jolstad
Greg Jolstad’s friends called him Jolly “because of his name, and because that’s just how he was.” Bill Stahlke remembers ice fishing almost daily, as teenagers, with Jolstad and Jim Hallin on Knife Lake, near the Jolstad family farm. The three haven’t missed a winter on the lake in the nearly 30 years since they graduated together from Mora High School.

 

Scott Sathers
On Aug. 1, Scott Sathers left his job in downtown Minneapolis at Capella University, where he worked as an enrollment director, approximately 40 minutes later than usual. Sathers called his wife Betsy at 5:50 p.m. from Washington Ave. and 35W, where he was about to get on 35W to go north to his home in Blaine.

 

Christina Sacorafas
Christina Sacorafas was running late, and called her friend and fellow dance instructor, Rena Tsengas, to say she would be late. But Sacorafas never made it the Minneapolis church where students in her Greek folk dancing group were waiting for her to begin class.

 

Sadiya and Hanah Sahal
For Ahmed Iidle, the I-35W bridge collapse has brought a double loss. His daughter Sadiya Sahal, 23, and her 2-year-old daughter Hanah were headed to a relative’s house when the bridge crumbled beneath them.

 

Vera Peck and Richard Chit
Vera Peck and her 20-year-old son Richard Chit were traveling in the same car when the bridge collapsed.

 

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Related to posts: 40 Days, 8 Flags, and 1 Mennonite Choir, Memorial — Day & Night, Bridge To Nowhere — The Great ConnectorFear Of Bridges, Thornton Wilder & Bridges, Minneapolis At Night, The Name Game (What’s In A Name?)

Resources: Hundreds turn out to dedication of 35W Bridge Memorial, New 35W bridge memorial honors those who died — and the community that disaster brought together, Remembering the Dead, Bridge survivor on 5th anniversary: ‘The day I got to live’

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 5th, 2012

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By Teri Blair

It’s been 40 days since the 35W Bridge collapsed. Today, a sunny Fall day, I’ve come down to view the site…the first day (since the first fitful days of August) that I’ve been here. I’m writing this from the 10th Ave Bridge. I stand close enough to the collapse site to see everything, practically close enough to touch the pillars, the crushed railroad cars, the twisted steel. It looks smaller than I expected, like that feeling I have when I go back to my elementary school and the rooms seem little.

As in early August, a huge crowd gathers. We stand in respectful silence and awe. Seeing. It sinks in, one level deeper. In the river there are 5 barges, the ones used for clean up. They bob slightly in the muddy Mississippi, and I wonder how the divers found anyone. The river is dark, even with the midday sun. Two of the barges have cranes several stories high perched on them, and I don’t see the flags at first. I can’t see much at first. There is too much to look at, and all I can do is stand there. Absorbing it into my cells. But then I see it; a flag is flying against the blue sky, the Minneapolis skyline in the background. I instantly remember seeing the flags flying at Ground Zero, and I have the same rush of faith and patriotism and tenderness for what has happened. I look around, and see flags everywhere around the collapse site. There are 8. On the cranes, the barges, the trailer where the demolition crew takes their breaks. And I know someone thought that through. It was the way someone showed up for what happened here.

I walk the length of the bridge. Slowly. When I get to the end and turn to walk back, women begin to pass me wearing cotton dresses and white bonnets. And then their men come. The single ones clean-shaven, the married with beards. My attention turns from the bridge to the Mennonites, and I realize they are curious, too. Then, quite suddenly, the group of 50 clusters near one of the lookout points and forms a choir. They begin to sing a cappella hymns in 4-part harmony. Their voices are gentle, soothing, the music floating over the site and the people viewing it. I am singing the lyrics with them in my head—all familiar songs from my early upbringing in the church. A Mennonite man approaches me with a CD of their music. I accept it. He tells me they have driven up from southern Iowa to sing on the bridge. A 5-hour trip. They sing 7 songs, and continue across the bridge.

I continue walking. An artist paints the collapsed bridge with her oils, an easel set up. Parents quietly explain to their children what they’re seeing. The voices are mainly those of the children, innocent questions about how people drown, would the choo-choo train be okay; one cries when he thinks his big brother has a better view.

I came here today simply because I needed to. I came without expectations. It was time. What I didn’t plan on was the feeling of tremendous unity. Everyone tries to make sense of this, and brings what they have. The Army Corps of Engineers brings their flags; the Mennonites bring their music, the artist her palette. A feeling of deep peace permeates the crowd. And I can see somehow (as the Mennonites have sung)…It is well with my soul.


About Teri:  Teri is a writer from Minnesota, living in Minneapolis. She went to the I-35W collapse site every day for several days immediately following the tragedy, but she was not able to see the bridge up close due to barricades blocking public access. Teri again visited the site this past weekend, where she did the writing practice “40 Days, 8 Flags, and 1 Mennonite Choir.” This post is a follow-up to “Thornton Wilder & Bridges,” a piece Teri wrote shortly after the August 1, 2007, bridge collapse.

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Memorial By Night, Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Memorial, By Night, Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 5th, 2007, shot through the grove of trees at center circle, facing the I-35 Bridge, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I heard on the 9p.m. news that they found the final and 13th person from the I-35 Bridge collapse. The final person as far as they know. Our visit to the Memorial two weeks ago was unplanned. Liz had purchased tickets in May to see 1776 at the Guthrie on August 5th. We had plans to take her Mom who flew in from Wyoming the night the bridge collapsed.

By the time of the Guthrie performance, the Memorial in the grove of trees in Gold Medal Park had already formed. We took some flowers to the play that night. Before the performance, we ate dinner and walked out on the Guthrie’s Endless Bridge to view the I-35 Bridge.

And after the performance, we trudged through the soggy grass up the hill in the dark, and placed the handful of flowers down under the trees. The bridge was lit up in the background. We said our prayers.

I wanted to wait until everyone was found to post these shots. The eerie, blue neon lines from the benches that square the trees on the hill at Gold Medal Park threw strange shadows on the handmade signs that night. A light breeze blew through the summer air.

We stood together silently for a while. Then walked down the hill, picked her Mom up in the lobby next to a group from the 1776 cast, drove through the city, and headed back home.

Perhaps tonight there is a little more peace. Yet I heard that 6 died yesterday in severe flooding down in southeast Minnesota. Roads, bridges, and railroad tracks caved in. Houses flooded, fell away in mudslides, and are buried in layers of silt.

Maybe there is no peace. Only the idea of it. And the gentle acceptance and quiet strength that reverberate through our town.


Memorial From The Guthrie, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Memorial, By Day, Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 5th 2007, shot from high inside the Guthrie Theater, Memorial is in the center of the circle on the hill, left view is the reflection in the stainless steel window panel, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 -posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 20th, 2007

- related post: Bridge To Nowhere – The Great Connector

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by Teri Blair

Years ago, I was given a reading list by my 11th grade English teacher. I was in the college prep class, and the list of 100 or so books were ones he wanted us to read before we graduated from high school. It wasn’t just his idea. He told us a committee of English professors had compiled it. These books were considered the bare-bones-minimum to have read before we darkened the first door of a collegiate hall. The list included all the classics. Most of us got to two or three of them. We instead invested our time cruising up and down Main Street in convertibles and drinking chocolate shakes at Hardees.

But I held onto the list. In the countless moves I have made since I graduated from high school in 1979, I never lost the list. I made several resolves through the years to read each and every book, and with every resolve I would read a few more. Finishing them before college changed to finishing them during my lifetime.

And then this summer, something happened. A fire was lit under me, and I can’t stop. I read O, Pioneers! (Willa Cather), The Crucible (Arthur Miller), and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith). I read The Red Badge of Courage (Stephan Crane) and White Fang (Jack London). I have read twenty books from the list back-to-back — the intensity and desire to continue building with every book.

There is one that stood out for me. One I curiously have liked better than all the rest. Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge Of San Luis Rey. It is the story of Brother Juniper, a Franciscan monk living in Peru. One day, the most famous bridge in the country suddenly (and without warning) collapses, killing five people. Brother Juniper is desperate to make sense of it, to understand why these five died. He researches the life story of each of the people, trying to find connecting links/clues/a rationale. He wants to know if the way we live our life really makes a difference or matters. He wants to know if a Divine Force is orchestrating events. Or even cares. The book is fabulously written, a real page-turner.

I finished the book about a week ago, ten days at the most. I finished it right before the funeral of my cousin Shawn, the one who died unexpectedly when his car overturned on a country road. I was thinking about it when we stood around his grave in silence. I kept thinking about it when I returned to Minneapolis. Why some are taken and others left. Why I am left.

And then on Wednesday, in my beloved city, the bridge went down. And Thornton’s book was no longer simply a great piece of literature. In the first hours of learning about the 35W bridge, I had the strangest sense that the book was coming true specifically for me. It was eerie and confusing and I wanted it to stop and not get that close. I did the only thing I could think of; I read the next book on my list: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Emily’s famous line, spoken from the grave, now rings in my head. “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”

I crossed over the bridge six hours before it collapsed. The speed limit was only 40 mph, and I remember it clearly — the men with hardhats and orange vests, the traffic diverted to one side, the midday sun heating up the concrete. I replay the drive slow-motion in my head, understanding that at that moment the bridge was straining, barely able to maintain its load, almost ready to release. It was breathing its last breath. We didn’t know.

I have realized this week that I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of never living. I am afraid of mindlessly grinding through years being half-conscious and blandly molded to the status quo. I am afraid of never realizing my life.

And so I walk slower. This one act is real. My connection to life.


-related posts:  Bridge to Nowhere – The Great Connector, Fear Of Bridges, Minneapolis At Night, Natural Wonders: A Pentagram, The World According to Mr. Schminda (et al.)

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