Thursday, August 02, 2007
Minneapolis Bridge Collapse
I went to work today, wondering if any of my co-workers were on the bridge. Wondering about my Manager, but thinking he took a different route home.
As it turned out, he was nearly one of the souls on the bridge; he revealed this morning that he is still in shock. Last night, he was on I-35 W, which, north of the bridge, has been under construction for some time. The bridge itself, which is 8 lanes wide, was down to 1 lane on each side. (One week ago, when I was last on this bridge, it was 2 lanes on each side). So as you can imagine, with a major highway, the main thoroughfare through the Minneapolis downtown area, so crippled, well, traffic was HORRENDOUS, and was literally bumper to bumper for miles, and traffic was just crawling.
There are a few exits approaching the bridge, the last one being the 4th St/University exit, coming from the North. My manager was fed up with traffic, was on the phone with his wife, and, there, about a quarter to 6, he told her that he was going to go around it. She chided him, telling him not to go on one of his "expeditions", but he ignored her, being a typical man and needing to explore and find his own way (see TOB to understand this mentality), and took the 4th St. Exit. He found another bridge and crossed through downtown, then re-entered 35W from the next exit down, a few miles along in South Minneapolis.
By then, the bridge had collapsed.
He is convinced he would have been on the bridge, given the way the traffic was crawling, given the timing of it...and is thrilled to be alive. And sorry, all you women out there...thrilled he didn't listen to his wife.
This is a huge tragedy, and the repurcussions are NOT going to stop with Minneapolis. Already, States everywhere are assessing their bridges.
Many years ago, when I was a child, I was terrified of the bridges with the large metal support structures over them. When I saw them as we approached, it looked like scaffolding to me, and scaffolding meant that something wasn't finished being built, yet.
I don't know from whence my fear came, but whenever we took trips somewhere, invariably we would have to cross one of these bridges. And the surface, the strange sound the tires made on these particular types of bridges, terrified me even further; it was like nails on a chalkboard, to my sensitive disposition. And so when we were approaching this structure, I would scream and scream and scream, certain Dad was driving us into disaster. I literally could not control my screaming; it was terrifying to me, so eventually my family just gave me a pillow to scream into, and I agreed...what did it matter, when we were all going to plunge into the river we were crossing?
And the moment we crossed, my screams stopped, and I was fine. I did this for years, and I can't tell you when it stopped. I even remember, after I had learned how to read, coming across a magazine or newspaper article discussing a bridge collapse. In it, the author discussed how the collapse had affected people in the area, such that, even though they had not been on or near it, when it was rebuilt, or when crossing any other existing bridge, people had to drive them across. They could not do it themselves. They could rationalize, they could look at it and see that it was safe, but they were so terrified they could not cross. So volunteers literally stepped forward and provided the service of driving people across that bridge.
Being that this was one of my fears, the article stuck with me; I realize there were others out there fearful of the bridges, but they had a reason. I was a kid; we'd never suffered a collapse, my fear was based on misunderstanding and misinterpretation, and I did eventually outgrow it.
But yesterday, I was reminded of my fear, and realized it's not always irrational to assume a structure is dangerous and can collapse. The I-35 bridge was not a cable bridge or suspension bridge or a truss bridge, but it collapsed just the same. It was not the type of bridge that terrified me as a child.
But I guarantee you; those who were on the bridge will suffer fears for the rest of their lives. They are changed forever. Those who lost family members in this tragedy will suffer fears for the rest of their lives, and they are really hurting now. Those whose family members are yet to be found, they will perhaps suffer the most, for there is no end in sight for their suffering.
I don't know why I suffered such fear as a child, but I do know that such fear is sometimes appropriate. My heart goes out to all who were there, all who were almost there, and all who have loved ones who have been lost or killed...and I offer my deepest sympathies and my prayers.
Please keep all those who were on the bridge in your prayers, as they deal with the ongoing trauma as a result of this horrible disaster.