Peeling back a corner of the universe to glimpse the utter chaos that lies behind.
Aug 2, 2008
It has been one year and one day since the I-35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi river at rush hour on a week day. There were memorial events at a park near the site and coverage of "one-year-after" stories in the Star Tribune.
That event was kind of traumatic for me. I was living in Connecticut when 9/11 happened, and that event resulted in the deaths of two people from the little town I was living in. I was in meetings at a state office building near Harford, CT when the towers fell, and we were evacuated and state office buildings were closed because no one knew what the hell was going on, but whatever it was it was not good. I left my meetings, returned to the field office I was working in, and learned that Duke Energy Gas Transmission (my client) had closed all non-essential offices (which included mine), so I went home and watched the coverage on CNN.
The I-35W bridge collapse felt a lot like that to me (it was "re-stimulating", as my wife would say). It was a normal day that took a turn and you did not know what to do with it. I left work at about 5:15 that day and drove home (sometimes I would ride my bike under that bridge on the way home, but not that day; I drove). It was very hot, and Molly was at her parents, so I made a nice gin and tonic and the cat an I went out on the deck to grill some brats. I heard a police siren as I was starting the grill, but did not think anything of it. Police sirens in South Minneapolis are as common as mosquitoes. After about 15 minutes, it dawned on me that the sirens were continuous. They never stopped, and in fact, were increasing.
I went in the house and turned on the radio, thinking that perhaps a plane had crashed at the airport or a grain mill on Hiawatha Ave. was burning down. When I heard on NPR that the bridge had collapsed, I was stunned. I am not real prone to hyperbole, but I was actually stunned. I spent the rest of the evening tracking down the wearabouts of employees that I know cross that bridge and text messaging with other managers at my company to compare notes on what we knew. Cell phones did not work reliably, so I had to resort to texting, and I was not able to talk to my wife until the day after.
By 9:00 the next morning I had accounted for all my employees and we were getting on with our lives. In some ways it seems like a kodak moment.
What I don't understand is, where is the outrage?? After I-35W, the state launched a massive bridge inspection program and found a lot of other problems. They closed a bridge in St. Cloud, another in Winona, and the Lowery Ave. bridge in Minneapolis. Somebody was seriously slacking. And I don't mean they took Friday off; this has been brewing for more than 10 years. Consultants recommended repairs, inspections were increased, but it seems like very little actually was done to improve things. That does not surprise me, because I can be a pretty jaded person when it comes to elected officials and public servants, but what does surprise me is that few have been taken to task or otherwise held accountable for this mess.
Actually, now that I think about it, that does not surprise me either.