The bridges of Hennepin County

August 03, 2007 by barbara

barbara writes

What follows is a recounting of the hours right after the I-35 bridge collapsed. It was sent to me by Adrienne, who lives close to the Mississippi and the now-infamous bridge.

My head never did hit the pillow last night. I got about 45 minutes of sleep, dozing in and out while watching the TV coverage from my big comfy chair with my pup Cody nestled beneath my chin. Otherwise, I’ve been up all night.

I live on the Mississippi river bank, among the numerous bridges that join the east and west banks. I can see six of the bridges from my terrace.

Last night at 6:05, I was walking Cody over the Central Avenue Bridge. About a third of the way across, I noticed a man hanging on the rail, looking eastward, talking on his cell phone. Another woman was walking alongside me and Cody, and as we approached this man, he grabbed at us, yelling frantically, “The bridge collapsed, the bridge collapsed. I just saw it go down.” He was freaking out, pointing and begging us to follow his pointing finger to look.Read more.

We couldn’t make out the cars or the people; we were too far away for that. But as we followed his pointing finger to the massive amount of concrete lying IN the water, he explained. “That concrete, that span, you see it…that WAS the bridge. It’s in the water.” We focused our gaze, and he was right. We could see the twisted ends of the concrete shooting skyward and the middle slab 60 feet below. We couldn’t figure out which bridge it was. It was hard to tell from that distance. But this man had witnessed it with his own eyes.

I decided to continue on my usual route that entailed coming back across the Stone Arch Bridge (pictured). I figured I'd get a better look from there. Within minutes it became clear that we had a major disaster on our hands. Siren after siren after siren signaled emergency vehicles of every description. Ambulances and police cars. Fire trucks. Helicopters hovered overhead.

I could see the gigantic plume of black smoke filling the sky, which I later learned was coming from a blazing 18-wheeler, visible on TV news coverage. People were just starting to gather on the banks to look. In a short time, there were probably a couple hundred people. An incredible array of rescue vehicles was arriving. A Sheriff’s truck towing a rescue boat roared across the pedestrian-only Stone Arch Bridge.

At this point, Stephen called my cell phone wondering where I was and if I knew what was going on. He was stuck at his new office without a TV monitor. I told him that I’d hurry home and put the news on. So I did and that’s when I saw what you all have seen.

I wondered if I could get close enough to see the rescue in progress. At about 8:30, I bumped into my neighbor Jenny and I told her I was heading over to a friend's building to go up to the roof. While walking along the river bank, in the direction of the new Guthrie Theater, there were about a hundred people walking in that direction with us, all silent. Nobody said a word. We went up to the roof but couldn’t see much more from there. We decided to not try to go any closer. We headed back home and parted ways for the evening, and that’s when I hunkered down in front of the TV with Cody.

At 2:45 am, I couldn’t watch any more, but I couldn’t sleep, either. So I took Cody for a walk over the Stone Arch. There was yellow police tape draped across the entrance to the bridge, but I went under it, as did a couple of guys on bicycles. A man in a reflective vest stood about fifty yards away and yelled at us. “Hey, the bridge is closed,” but we all kept going. The bicyclists went ahead and I walked slowly with Cody.

I was headed for the middle of the bridge when Cody and I came across a man who was sitting on the bridge, gazing at the collapse. He was obviously distraught, his head in his hands.

I approached him and asked, “Are you okay?” As I got closer, I saw that it was someone I knew. “Kevin, what’s wrong? Did you lose someone on the bridge.” He said he hadn’t. He said he was just overwhelmed by the tragedy. And so we sat quietly and hugged, and he petted Cody. Kevin had brought a candle to light for the victims, and so he did.

Then a police officer told us we had to leave. We slowly gathered ourselves, and while we walked back to our building, we agreed that neither of us had any interest in going to sleep. So we came back to my place and watched more TV coverage until 5 am.

Now it’s, 7:30. The sun is shining. The police have set up a staging area on the Stone Arch Bridge, and it’s closed to onlookers. The rescue is now a recovery. They will surely pull many more bodies out of the river this morning. These are the souls for whom Kevin lit the candle at 3 o’clock.

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thehaitiman (not verified) | August 3, 2007 - 12:14pm

what a beautiful account of a very tragic event


paul miller (not verified) | August 4, 2007 - 9:12am

9:14 am 8/4/07
not to worry, CHIMPY IS IN THE HOUSE: "your doing a checkofa job, TPawwy"


barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 4, 2007 - 9:48am