Ever since the August 1 collapse of
the I-35W bridge last week, I've been calling and emailing
out-of-town friends to assure them that my family and I
are all right. But like so many people in our city (and
beyond), I'm deeply troubled by what happened, so I wrote
down some of what I was thinking and feeling. Here are my
Last Wednesday afternoon I left for
a sailing trip along the Canadian shore of Lake Superior.
On my way to Thunder Bay my friend Hal and I crossed over
the I-35W bridge just 75 minutes before it collapsed into
the Mississippi River, and now I've come home to a city
that is different from the one I left.
There are too many emotional and
psychological dimensions to this unfolding catastrophe for
me to understand all of them. It feels disorienting to
think that a landmark I have driven over and biked and run
beneath for years no longer exists. I went for a run
around the site today to see the fallen bridge with my own
eyes, but even now I'm not sure I fully comprehend that
it's gone. Bridges aren't supposed to collapse. We often
drive over them without even noticing we're on them. We
place our faith in the world we know, but sometimes the
known world, to use Edward P. Jones' book title, is not
the world we thought it was.
The other night at our National
Night Out gathering it felt good to talk with my
neighbors. Like them, I'm relieved that more people didn't
die, and I'm happy that the 61 children and their
chaperones made it off that yellow school bus. I'm also
saddened by the tragic loss of life, concerned for our
city, and worried about the consequences of losing a major
transportation artery that carried 140,000 vehicles a day.
And yet I know that, in the aftermath of tragedy,
communities often demonstrate their strength and
resilience. I'm moved by the stories of bravery and
heroism I've heard since my return, and I'm thankful that
no one I know died, including Hal and me.
Oddly, as we crossed the bridge
heading north my car thermometer spiked to 104 degrees,
then dropped back to 93 when we were off the bridge. In
the two-lane bumper-to-bumper traffic on the bridge we
passed close to a young construction worker on our left. I
noticed concrete dust on his forearms, and I said
something to Hal about how hard it must be to be working a
job like that in the heat. Another construction worker, an
older man, is still missing and presumably dead. I feel
genuinely sorry for him and his family and friends, but at
the same time I feel relieved that the younger man who
drew my attention wasn't the one who died.
Coincidentally, this is a very busy
and special time for my family. In just over a week, on
August 18, my daughter Kate will marry Markus Benson. So
life goes on. Despite the tragedy, there's plenty of room
in our hearts for joy and celebration. It may not be a
perfect life, but for my family and me it's a blessedly
good one, and we're thankful for it, now more than ever.