This is what I posted on the second anniversary. Yesterday was the fifth.
Two years ago today, on a weekday afternoon during rush our, the Interstate 35W bridge, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed into the Mississippi river. Thirteen people died and about 145 people suffered injuries.
At the time this happened, Amanda, Julia and I were in the Green Kalahari in South Africa, at Augrabies Falls.
Finding out about the incident was interesting. My BFF Lynne had just heard from her husband, Chris, that "the bridge in Minnesota went down." We asked if more details could be obtained, as hearing this sort of news from that distance away probably meant a significant bridge. For those of you who don't know, I'll tell you that we have a LOT of bridges in Minnesota. Many are across the Mississippi, but we've got plenty of other rivers as well.
As we waited for word, we speculated. I suggested right away that it was the I35W bridge because it was very much under reconstruction at that time. The bridge was loaded with heavy equipment and being cut up at the same time. Amanda was incredulous because, after all, such a thing is unthinkable.
Then we got more details: "It was the bridge over the Mississippi River."
Oh, great. There are dozens of bridges over the Mississippi, several in Saint Paul and Minneapolis alone. So we asked for still more details: Which bridge? What route number?
But before the details arrived, we managed to get to a phone and called Amanda's parents, reaching her step mother first. We heard the details then, about a day and a half after it all happened.
Here's what I wrote on my old blog after returning from South Africa, about the bridge collapse:
Finally, this: Our freaking bridge collapsed. Everyone had heard about it. For me, it was at first a vague rumor about "the Mississippi River Bridge" in "Minnesota" falling down, and it took a few days to get some actual news. Having thought about it for a couple of days before learning any details, I have to say that, acknowledging the immense tragedy for those most affected, and the hassle this is going to be given what has to happen to the roads around here, it could have been a lot worse. There can be hundreds of cars on that bridge, and the collapse could have been more "complete" (i.e., all of the sections going all the way into the river). But for now there is not much I can say. I need to learn more about it. I'll just say that Minnesota has the most irresponsible and selfish governor we've ever had in our history, and for his sake, this better have been an act of god. As an atheist, I'm confident that there will be significant political fallout. (Or will all those people praying at the disaster site serve to distract us from some important realities.)
Added: The bridge fell down because of bad design, but more diligent inspection could probably have identified a risk. It is one of many Interstate bridges that have collapsed since the Interstate system went into place.
Also of interest: Did you know that I 35, the road that went over that bridge, is God's Personal Highway?
Funny, to me the road looked like any other road going over a gorge with a river in it. Who knew?
America's infrastructure is crumbling and cleaning up, making emergency repairs and patching has become more expensive than rebuilding. Unemployment is a huge strain on state and federal budgets and, at its core, the reason the economy continues to lag. One would think we could use one problem to solve the other by employing the unemployed to rebuild the infrastructure.
But that probably makes entirely too much sense for anyone to take it seriously.