How Did The I-35W Bridge Collapse Affect You?

In the comments, share your memories and the impact it had on you and your town.

Within the span of a few seconds on Aug. 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge, the state's fifth busiest span, became piles of rubble. The effects of that day have reverberated for five years.

Wednesday marks the anniversary of the collapse, which killed 13 and injured 145. If you were in Minnesota at the time, you remember where you were when you heard about the tragedy.

We want to hear your stories. Tell us in the comments how the collapse affected you, your family and your town. What do you remember about that day?

Kurt Anderson July 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM
I was on the bridge earlier that day stopped in (construction) trafic. I worked in Nord' East in those days and had to take Broadway crossed N Mpls via GV Rd around the back of Wirth Gc. I was definetly felt by me!
Alicia July 31, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I was on my way home to pick up my then 2 year old daughter. I was stuck in traffic on the center span of the bridge as it fell into the Mississippi. I saw the bridge break a few cars in front of me and I remember being banged around as I fell into the Mississippi. Then I remember waking up in my completely submerged car in shock I was still alive. I'm not sure how or why I survived but I know it was nothing short of a miracle. It changed my life forever. I continued at my office job for a year before we moved to St. Michael and I started to run an in-home daycare. I almost lost my life that day and my daughter almost lost her mother. I may not have the big fancy job but I spend everyday with the most important people in my life, Brittney (7), Chloe (3) and Charlotte (10 m)! My life has forever changed and I still deal with issues (pain and PSTD) but I think I get more out of life than I ever would had I not almost lost my life that day.
Kristin Hanna July 31, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I was with my boyfriend at the time at an auction when the auctioneer got on the microphone and announced the collapse. We immediately got in our car and started heading home trying to call friends and family the whole time. We couldn't get through to anyone as the lines were jammed. Many of my friends and family not familiar with the area, but knowing we lived near the Twin Cities, were calling to see if we were ok. I couldn't confirm until the next night that my friends who live in that area and drive on that bridge were ok. It was such a scary time. However, on a good note, one of my close friends had her second baby the day after the collapse, and my nephew was born four days later. It was nice to have happy news amongst all of the tragedy and sadness.
Elaine Wynne July 31, 2012 at 01:13 PM
One of my sons called to make sure my husband & I were okay. We were gathered with visiting Swedish relatives down in Northfield so were not aware of what had happened. The shock of what Sen. Klobuchar would later say, "a bridge does not just fall down in Minnesota," was dawning on us as we talked. I supported Rep. Winkler and Sen. Latz, who stepped up to the plate to initiate the Survivor fund from the state of MN, and they, along with Phillips area legislators got a part of that fund for Waite House, the community center which had rented the school bus from which l/3 of the survivors were rescued by quick witted teen and young adult staff, with help from volunteers who had run to see what happened. One survivor, Garrett Ebling, is quoted in the Fireman's Museum saying something like - any survivor would give back every dollar to not have gone through that experience. We need to continue to be mindful of the grace and struggle of the children, adults and family survivors and those who lost loved ones in the collapse as they reconstruct their lives. Taking care of infrastructure is like disease prevention in health care. Our local and national attitude needs to continue to grow in the art of preventing disasters rather than picking up the pieces.
Joe July 31, 2012 at 01:44 PM
What an amazing story, Alicia. Thanks for sharing. A former student of mine was severely injured that day. She was due to attend her first year of college that fall on a dance scholarship, but obviously couldn't go. I lost touch with her.
Terry Wright July 31, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I felt my car rumble and shake, traveling at 60 miles an hour I looked in my rearview mirror; and didn't see the road behind me. Surreal to say the least, and I had to be in shock because the event, didn't set in for a while afterwards. Its a constant struggle and a blessing all wrapped into one.
Mike Schoemer (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Alicia - can you contact us? mike.schoemer@patch.com
Jay Corn July 31, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I was working as the editor of the Kanabec County Times at the time. It was my first job out of college, and I had been there about a year. Mora is a small town, and word spreads quickly, so it didn't take long to find out that a member of our community was on the bridge when it collapsed. Greg "Jolly" Jolstad was part of the construction crew working on the bridge when it fell, and he was a hometown boy with lots of friends and family in the area. It took divers about a week to find his body. I remember talking regularly to his wife, Lisa, and everyone in town wanted to tell me stories about Greg's life and the memories they had shared with him. Jolly's friends began an ice fishing tournament, which takes place each winter on his favorite fishing spot—Knife Lake. My thoughts are with Greg's family, friends and the entire Mora community today.
Mike Schoemer (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 02:16 PM
My wife's entire family was at my house to celebrate her brother's impending fatherhood. We had just wrapped dinner when my sister called to see if I was OK. I had no idea what was going on. Within minutes, I was talking to the Edina Fire Department (I was editor of the Edina Sun Current at the time) and they were on scene, working with rescue efforts. It was a surreal evening. I rarely traveled that way, but had taken that bridge weeks earlier to get to the U of M Campus for a story.
Michael Garlitz July 31, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I was cooking dinner when my brother on the East Coast called me to see if my family was safe. It was just a few minutes after the bridge went down, and he saw the news on CNN. We got a lot of calls from family that night. I drove on that bridge six or eight times a day in the mid-1990s, when my wife attended classes on the east bank of the University of Minnesota and worked on the west bank.
Skip Chell July 31, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I was already in the hospital at Abbott-Northwestern, recovering from the previous day's hip surgery. Nurses and doctors began running around apparently preparing for something. I asked what was up and they responded that the bridge had fallen and they were expecting an influx of casualties. It was a scary time, but these professionals went about their business. It was quite impressive.
Kevira Voegele (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I was sitting at my desk at the Faribault Daily News, laying out pages for the next day's paper. The TV in the newsroom was turned to a local broadcast. An anchor announced the I-35W bridge had collapsed and soon after they showed video footage of the site. I was stunned. We redesigned the front of the paper and tried to gather as much info as we could in light of the chaos of the day. It wasn't until the next morning that I learned that my friend and former boss Garrett Ebling was on the bridge when it collapsed. At the time they didn't know if he would survive. I drove to pick up my husband and started sobbing as I told him about Garrett. For months I followed Garrett's progress on his CaringBridge site. I'm happy to say he survived and recently wrote a book about his recovery.
Carissa Wyant July 31, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I was heading to a funeral with a group of co-workers. We were in downtown Minneapolis, going to Roseville. There were two cars carrying everyone in our party. Right about hene were about to go over the bridge, one of the women in the car I was riding in said "You know what, there is going to be a lot of traffic on that bridge, I know a different route." So we took another route. Our co-worker in the other car did not arrive at the funeral, and when it was over we called his phone repeatedly. Then we heard about the bridge collapse, and panicked trying to get a hold of him. He was right in the middle of it. He was (thankfully) physically unharmed, but the emotional scars are still there. He saw several people die. He helped some children to safety. He and many other Minnesotans were heroes that day. I am thankful to my co-worker who suggested the alternate route. If it weren't for her last-minute suggestion, I very well might not be here to write this today.
Kristin Hanna July 31, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Wow! What an amazing story!
Shakopee Mom July 31, 2012 at 03:23 PM
The collapse didn't personally effect me, we were concerned about a friend of our that traveled everyday over the bridge. Fortunately, when we finally got through to him on his cell, he already passed over the bridge, 5 minutes before the collapse.
Mary Mackenburg-Mohn July 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
We were home that evening, hosting visitors from Norway who were watching the local news. They called out the news to us and we watched in disbelief. My partner, a Minneapolis Firefighter silently left the room and began gathering her work stuff. She knew they would be needing extra help. She was not dispatched to the bridge site but was sent to cover a station whose personnel was working at the bridge site. It was a long evening as we waited, wondered, and worried about her and the rest of the MFD who were working. At that time she had been a firefighter for 21 years and those men and women at the bridge site were our friends. Their bravery that night (and every other day for that matter) is beyond words. Recently we attended the opening of the exhibit "81 Minutes: After the Bridge Collapse" at the Firefighters Hall and Museum in Minneapolis with some of those firefighters who were there. Their words and photos are incredible. (http://firehallmuseum.org) Thank you. Mary, Woodbury
Jonathan K July 31, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I was driving home around the time of the collapse - nowhere near that area - and stopped at home, picked my wife up and decided to go to Dairy Queen. My car radio was on and the restaurant also had a local station on, but I heard nothing about this. When we got home my dad (who is retired and living in California) called me to see if we were alright. He had seen the news on the Internet. (Internet:1; local radio: 0.) We visited the collapse site about a week later and took pictures.
rob_h78 July 31, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I had just moved to Minnesota and had seen freeway's \ overpasses collapse in earthquakes in California and it had never crossed my mind that a bridge would really collapse except for something like an earthquake.
Crystal July 31, 2012 at 05:02 PM
My husband I were at my moms house with all our family over and we had just ordered lots of pizzas. We were laughing, talking and enjoying each other. The pizza man told us the news so we flipped the tv on and we were glued in shock for the next 3-4 hours. We made many calls that night, everyone we knew was fine. It was devastating nonetheless and we shed lots of tears. I drove on the bridge on Sunday and it was still an eery feeling.
patricia ross July 31, 2012 at 06:01 PM
My daughter was coming for a visit from out of town with my little granddaughters. She made a mistake and took the "wrong" I 35. She could have easily been on that bridge at that time.
Eric Hoffman July 31, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I was on the south side of the bridge, and my wife was on the north side of the bridge in our other car with our newborn. Close call.
Derrick Williams (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 07:45 PM
My cousin, who was a paramedic with the Hennepin County Medical Center, was one of the first responders on the scene just minutes after the bridge collapsed. I'll never forget the stories she shared, from accounts of the bravery she witnessed among victims who stayed on the crumbled structure helping people, to the sad stories.
Fabuladico July 31, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I live very near the bridge. I was supose to go somewhere that day which meant crossing the bridge which I did 2-3 times a day. I was delayed, because I forgot something at home otherwise I may very well have been on that bridge at that time. I couldn't find the thing, then I stopped to make a call. The next thing I knew, my cell phone was ringing. The person I was to visit worried that I had been in the collapse. There are other bridges just waiting to fall, like the Central Avenue bridge. It's cracked, with pieces missing. A new disaster waiting in the wings
Jeff Roberts July 31, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I was living in Japan at the time but heard about the bridge collapse very soon after it happened. Only later did I realize that my dad knew the gentleman incinerated in his semi truck as the world watched. What's more, my sister took that route everyday at that time (5:30 pm) but had been delayed because my niece was held up at dance class.
Chris Steller (Editor) August 01, 2012 at 04:15 AM
I was at home maybe a mile away with kids as young as 6 in my care and out of town guests I'd never met coming for dinner. A call came from a friend whose girlfriend had just seen the bridge fall in her rearview mirror. I couldn't go. I called someone I knew nearby and she went over. We watched on our little TV with the out of town guests. I know people who drove under the bridge on the west side five minutes before it happened and then back under the only part that hadn't fallen down, on the east side, five or ten minutes later. A month later I interviewed a guy who rushed to help people in the first minute or two after the disaster. He was very brave but still shaken. Here's that story: http://www.bridgelandnews.org/2204
Mallory August 01, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I was working at the University of MN at the time, but didn't take 35W home that day. I had no idea about the collapse until I started getting messages from family members trying to call me while I was outside playing with my kids after work. We answered many phone calls that night (on our land line, the cell phones were jammed). The next morning I was relieved to find that none of my co-workers or anyone I knew from the U was in the collapse. Amazing.
Shawn Wilson August 01, 2012 at 04:34 AM
My wife and I have responded to several major events since 9/11 including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, the I-35 Bridge Collapse, the Haiti Earthquake and Joplin Tornado. Our job is to recover and identify those lost in these tragic events. It is an all together humbling and life changing experience every time we are called to respond. Within minutes of the bridge collapsing, we had received phone calls from team members across the country mentally preparing for what could have been. Despite the loss of 13 unforgettable souls, we consider ourselves lucky that many more did not die that day. I quietly packed my go bag and returned to work where preparations were being made to intiate our Mass Fatality Plan. Wow! Our plan, not someone elses in some foreign place. This was really happening here in Minnesota. I spent that first night like many others at the scene in shock and in awe at what I was standing in front of. But quietly, we continued to do our work, that which we are trained to do. I had been in New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward, but this was different. I work 6 blocks from there and used that bridge almost daily. So many people were being reported missing that the Red Cross was writing names on napkins just to keep up with the flood of calls. For the next 3 weeks, me and my colleagues would perform our jobs for each of the 13 victims, returning each one to their families. Remember not only those lost in these events, but those who responded heroically and saved so many.
Michael Rose August 01, 2012 at 01:46 PM
RIP to the 13 people who lost their lives five years ago today. If you're looking to mark the occasion, the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis will be unveiling an exhibit called "Bridge" today at 5:45pm. Mayor RT Rybak is expected to speak at the opening. More details: http://events.mnhs.org/calendar/Results.cfm?EventID=5327&bhcp=1
Danielle Cabot August 01, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I was working at a restaurant without TVs on the floor, and figured out what happened from word of mouth. It's strange to be at work when something awful has happened in the outside world—you can't really just stop what you're doing, though I did try and make some calls. My thoughts now are with the family, friends and rescue workers affected by that day.
Christie Boeder August 06, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I will NEVER forget that evening. We were traveling east on 394 to attend the Guthrie that night - it was the musical 1776. As we drove into downtown, rescue vehicles were zipping by; as we exited into downtown we became ever more aware of the foot traffic, fire trucks, police, ambulances all streaming east towards the 35W Bridge. Personnel from HCMC were heading to the river with an obvious sense of purpose. By that time we had heard all the basic information available on MPR. What struck us was a feeling as if we were a part of a 'disaster movie set' - it seemed so unreal that on such a beautiful Minnesota summer evening that something as major as a bridge collapse had actually happened. As with many Twin Cities residents, I have crossed that bridge too many times to count over the years. Yet I know all too well any one of us could have been crossing the bridge during that time. We kept our 'date' with the Guthrie, saw people we knew and quietly discussed what was happening just a few blocks over. The view from the Guthrie was intimate, yet a bit remote - we all felt it was important to continue and not gawk. It was bittersweet to watch a play about the founding of our country while the tragedy of the collapse was playing out. I will never, ever forget that evening. As it turned out, I know the sister-in-law of one of those lost that evening. Truly we are a very connected community. They are all in my heart to this day.


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