One year since deadly bridge collapse

August 1, 2008 6:28:49 PM PDT
It was another perfect summer day - so similar to and yet so different from that day a year ago when the Minneapolis freeway bridge fell. On Aug. 1, 2007, there was crashing and panic and disbelief and horror. On Friday, there were songs and doves and tears and hugs. And then silence, to remember the moment a year ago when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring more than 140.

Minnesotans came together for two memorial ceremonies in Minneapolis to mark the anniversary. Hundreds gathered in Gold Medal Park and marched to the whine of bagpipes to the Stone Arch Bridge, just up the Mississippi from the bridge that fell. A new bridge, still under construction, already stands in its place. The red fire truck from Fire Station 11 - the first rescuer on the collapse scene - led the procession.

Shortly before 6:05 p.m., the time of the collapse, Minneapolis Police Inspector Mike Martin read the names of those who died: Julia Blackhawk. Richard Chit. Paul Eickstadt. Sherry Engebretsen. Peter Hausmann. Patrick Holmes. Greg Jolstad. Vera Peck. Christine Sacorafas. Hana Sahal. Sadiya Sahal. Scott Sathers. Artemio Trinidad-Mena.

Their relatives watched from a riverboat below, hugging and grieving. The Minneapolis Queen sounded its horn for each name. And then the crowd fell silent to honor them. Construction workers on the new bridge unfurled a large American flag, which fluttered in a stiff breeze.

The crowd included bridge victims, police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, bus drivers, construction workers, top state officials and those who just wanted to remember. Members of the Coulter family, who survived the collapse, rode an ambulance onto the Stone Arch Bridge and looked at the place where they could have died.

"Not a day goes by when we don't think about it," said Paula Coulter, who is recovering from a brain injury.

Her daughters cried as they looked at the scene, while her husband, Brad, said he was thinking of those who died.

Amy Lindholm took in the scene for the first time since the collapse, still wearing a plastic brace around her torso and holding her young daughter's hand. Lindholm, 33, said she wouldn't have missed the event, even though she has never liked being up on bridges.

"Every day is a recovery," she said. "It's just hard to believe it's been a year."

Work halted on the new bridge for six hours to observe the anniversary.

Earlier in the day, an interfaith service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis drew 1,000 people, from bridge collapse victims to top state officials. Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said the tragedy touched people around the world, raising basic questions about bridges and their safety.

"We all cross bridges, and I'm not talking about metaphors," she said.

The evening ceremony upriver from the collapsed bridge drew many who just wanted to remember, even though they didn't know anyone on the bridge when it fell.

"I wasn't personally affected by it, but it's kind of wounded my city, and it's a way to remember and think about what happened in the past year," said Christine Isenberg, 27, who leaned on the railing and looked at the new bridge.

She added: "There used to be a bridge, then there wasn't a bridge, now there's this bandage over where it used to be."


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