It’s been six years, but I can still remember the fear that froze my heart in 2007 the night the 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis during rush hour.
It was like having Pearl Harbor … or 9-11 … or the apocalypse in my own backyard.
I sat alone on the couch in the house I was then living in with Desiree and two others, watching the news in total shock, trying to call my friends before all the cell phone signals were jammed.
Des was in Mankato that weekend. I knew she was safe.
Another roommate Linds missed the collapse by maybe an hour or so.
My friend Anna missed it by 10 minutes.
Monica, who is mentoring me at work, missed it by 4 or 5.
I was desperate to get ahold of Megs, who was doing a med school rotation at HCMC and who turned out to be fine. I couldn’t reach her for hours, hours where I sat crying in the living room, staring and staring and staring at the television screen. This was the bridge I used almost every day. This scene of absolute chaos was happening ten minutes from my home.
You never expect the ground to give way beneath you, steel beams snapped like barley sugar and bowed gusset plates that no one had noticed.
And did you know that there was current construction on the bridge at that time too? My first thought when I’d heard of the collapse was how it was rush hour in construction, meaning there would be so many stopped vehicles on the bridge at that time. I watched the death toll rise to 13. There were 145 injured. A school bus was shoved up against the guardrail near a burning semi. Pieces of the bridge looked like giant tectonic plates that had shifted right over the Mississippi.
The flag will fly at half-mast in Minnesota today. Today I am thinking of the 13 who died and their families, of those who were injured and are still suffering physical and emotional pains, of all the first responders and rescue teams and volunteers who dove right into the melee to help.