The Day the I-35W Bridge Collapsed
I still vividly remember every moment of the evening the I-35W bridge collapsed. I was on my way to a yoga class just a few blocks from the bridge. As I walked up to the yoga studio door, I looked up to see fire engines, ambulances and police cars flying around the corner. I remember thinking that it was a lot of emergency vehicles and that there must have been a major accident.
I had no idea.
Police and ambulance sirens didn’t stop the entire class. I kept thinking, gosh that must be a terrible accident. I really hope everyone is okay.
As it’s customary in yoga, you often dedicate your practice to someone or something. I don’t remember what I chose at the beginning of class, but I do remember midway through shifting my energy to focus on whoever was at the other end of those sirens.
After class, we all sort of made our way into the locker room not aware of what was happening. The first thing I noticed when I opened the locker was that I missed an obscene amount of texts and phone calls. From my mom, my then-boyfriend-now-husband, friends and family from out of town.
As I was sifting through my own confusion, the teacher came into the locker room to share the news of the bridge collapse just as many people where also getting the same news on their phones. We were all in disbelief.
Since our phones didn’t work and we didn’t really understand what was happening — I mean, we didn’t really have any concept of what it meant for a bridge to collapse. This had not really happened that I could remember. For sure not in our city. Not involving anyone we actually know. — we made our way to the front desk to see the images on the their computers and to take turns calling our loved ones on the land line of the yoga studio.
It took several times of trying before I finally reached my boyfriend. Which was a quick conversation saying I was at yoga, I’m okay and heading home — and that he was okay and at home.
Walking out of the yoga studio and toward my car, all I could hear and see were sirens and helicopters. As I started driving, I was so disorientated. I could not stop crying. And quickly I realized, with the roads closed and helicopters above, I didn’t know an alternate route home.
Somehow I finally made it home. I hugged my boyfriend so tight. All night we watched the coverage on the news and kept calling friends and family to makes sure everyone was accounted for. I was overcome with so much shock and so many emotions.
After the bridge collapse, anyone who uses the I-35W bridge recounted the last time they were on the bridge. Many of us remember it under construction and being down to one lane with so many materials stacked off to the side. You could feel the bridge actually shake. It was hard not to replay how often you drove that same stretch that was now at the bottom of the Mississippi River.
Today my family travels over the I-35W bridge nearly everyday on our weekday commute — often twice a day — to our home in NE Minneapolis. I often think of the victims of the bridge collapse when I cross over the bridge. And always if I’m stuck at a full stop in traffic on the bridge.
But today, ten years after the tragedy, the memories come flooding in more than just the occasional thought or reminder. It’s the stories online, the families and survivors sharing their story, people remembering where they were when they heard the news.
It’s hard to remember the mundane day-to-day details of any given day, but when tragedy strikes like the bridge collapse or 9–11, you remember every vivid detail of your day.
Today the image that stands out to me are the people that occupied the closed 10th Ave bridge that is parallel to the I-35W bridge in the days following the collapse. While rescue crews and divers were still searching for missing victims, the only people allowed on the bridge were emergency crews and, as I remember it, the families of the still missing victims as a place for them to pray and wait for news.
I’m thinking of all of the those that didn’t make it or were injured terribly or narrowly escaped. My heart goes out to them and their loved ones. Especially to the children who lost their parents that day.
A stronger America is one that invests in bridges and infrastructure so that we never see another bridge collapse like the I-35W bridge.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Looking back at the I-35W bridge collapse. — Minnesota Public Radio