By now you've seen the stories. A major interstate freeway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last night, during rush hour, and right before a Twins game. Traffic was heavy, and there have been reports of dozens of injuries and at least 4-9 deaths (depending on which news organization is reporting the numbers.) It is too early to speculate on the cause of the fall, but that's not stopping people from guessing. My own seven year old daughter, this morning, offered that the collapse was probably because the bridge was old and lots of cars have driven on it.
That's not something I want her dwelling on the next time we drive over a bridge.
It'll be a cliche you hear from Minneapolitans over the next days: "I drive across that bridge all the time!" I myself have driven it countless times, most recently about three weeks ago. While I don't get downtown as often as I used to, you can't live in this town long without crossing the bridge at some point.
We started receiving phone calls last night around 6:30. Family and friends from around the country had seen the news and wanted to make sure we were okay. We are. But at least dozens of families aren't so fortunate. Our prayers today go out to the rescue workers, the emergency crews and the families of those hurt or killed.
For those unfamiliar with the area, the 35W bridge crossed the Mississippi river just outside downtown Minneapolis. Heading south, the next exit past the river drops people into downtown, and is a major point of entry to the city for such things as the Twins game. There are two locks on the river nearby, and another residential-traffic bridge a few hundred feet away. The University of Minnesota is also nearby, and the residential area surrounding the bridge's north side is primarily made up of college students. There was construction on the bridge, for resurfacing the roadway, but not on the steel infrastructure. Couple this construction with rush-hour/Twins traffic, and you had a lot of cars on the bridge going slowly at the time.
The bridge was just shy of 40 years old, and was designed to last 70 years. Something went wrong. That's an obvious understatement. There are already despicable people trying to pin blame for this on one person or another when the truth is we won't know what happened for (in all likelihood) months at the earliest. There is time to figure out the hows and whys. Right now we should be focused on finding the people beneath the rubble and supporting the families affected.
By all accounts, Minneapolis and the surrounding communities reacted well. Acts of heroism were abundant as people risked their safety to help others out of vehicles and out of the river. Praise God for such stuff. I'm proud of the city, in a muted way, and wasn't at all surprised such people live here. But I'm saddened by the tragedy. At some point, we'll know what happened and in true Minnesota form, we'll fix it. Until then, what we'll do is pray and give blood and donate to the Red Cross and help our neighbors as best we can.
For those who've contacted us, again we're safe. And thanks for your concern. Now let's focus that on those who need it: the injured, the families of the dead, and the workers risking safety to recover them all.