Thursday, July 31, 2008

One year since the bridge collapse: 8/1/08

Tomorrow at about 6pm churches all over the area will ring their bells and the community will observe a moment of silence in remembrance of those killed and injured during the collapse of the 35W Bridge last summer.
It's difficult to view these images, and the many other pictures and videos that documented this terrible happening. I still feel the shock of this wound to the community and the landscape, here at the river's edge, the birthplace of the city. I still feel misgivings about the wisdom of erecting a new bridge so quickly on the old site -- only a seven-foot gap now remains to be closed and final steps are being taken to finish the bridge as quickly as possible. The last estimate I heard was that they would re-open the highway this month. It seems to me to be an afront to the lives lost and the lives crippled, especially given the ongoing controversy over local and national infrastructure. I had naively hoped someone would consider rerouting the freeway entirely, by turning highway 280 into a 35W bypass permanently. It was obvious soon after the collapse that no one had seriously consider any such alternative.
I watched the papers for a long time afterward, tracking the numbers of dead and missing as news filtered in. One story I never saw in print, but surmised from other stories written and obscured in the middle of the paper, was the terrible tragedy of a young woman and her infant daughter. They were on the bridge section that fell into the water, on the side that flipped many cars onto their backs in the river. Both were reported missing and considered lost from early on, but one man also trapped in the river reported that a young woman appeared on the floating deck crying for her lost child; she pleaded for someone to help her get the baby from the car, then jumped back into the river, probably to try again to retrieve the child. The report of the recovery of their bodies was never printed, to my knowledge, thought they were found later in the month and services were observed for them. Given the media's ability to narrow down the number of people involved as quickly as they did, it seems clear that the young woman drowned trying to rescue her daughter. I imagine the story was kept clear of the papers at the family's request.
The site of those drownings is the site upon which they want to celebrate the rapid rebuilding of another automobile thruway. No memorial signage or moment of silence can offset the injustice of commerce and construction on a gravesite, to my way of thinking. People will argue that it's happened countless times before. But I'm against a big monument to 9-11 as well; it's a wound, it's a scar and it tells a story that needs to be felt and remembered and considered, rather than plastered over and beautified, modified to hide all that's still wrong and rotten about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. Here in Minneapolis, I wish we had more confidence as a society, and more class -- characteristics that would allow us to make sacrifices for the remembrance of those untimely lost.
Sacrifices like a slightly slower commute.

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