It's a call you never want to get. Even if things are OK, the initial reaction is one of fright and panic.
On Wednesday night at about 8:30 p.m. ET, my mother called and woke me from my after-work nap. With a somewhat excited voice she said, "did Kenny call you?" Kenny is my older brother. My mom continued. "We're alright!" My heart jumped. Was it a fire? An accident? A tornado?
Then, she told me about the bridge collapse on I-35W in Minneapolis … that cars had plummeted into the Mississipi River when the 40-year-old bridge crumpled onto itself. Fifty vehicles — including two school buses and trucks — tumbled into the mighty Mississipi.
For the next few minutes I was absolutely confused and tried to deal with the abrupt news of a tragedy that could have claimed the lives of any of my family members or friends ... and at the same time, trying to be a newsperson and answer the call of FOX producers wanting me to get on-air with my own personal story. It's a emotional situation that can only compare to 9/11, albeit on a much smaller scale.
But my personal story is that, by the grace of God, no one in my family was hurt. No one I knew, as far as I know now, was near the area of the collapse. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
That span of I-35W is as a part of my life as much as anything could be. I was born and raised in Minneapolis, born at one of the hospitals now treating the injured. I was a child when construction began on Minnesota's first interstate. It was a big deal, as I learned later. I barely remember the days of seeing this big pit running through the middle of our neighborhood. I had no idea what it was. I learned later that my grandmother had to move from her home to make room for the stretch of highway that the U.S. Department of Transportation calls a "priority corridor."
It's more than a 1,500 mile stretch of interstate, that services the heartland of America. Beginning in Laredo, Texas at the Mexican border, it stretches through six states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota and ends in Duluth, just 200 miles south of the Canadian border.
South of the Twin Cities, I-35 breaks into two legs. The one jogging to the east through St. Paul is called I-35E, and the one arching west through Minneapolis is I-35W. Comedians have joked about the confusion when you tell someone to go north on 35 west. Yes, it sounds strange, but locals welcome the dig and even take some pride in it.
There was pride because this major roadway linked all that was prominent about Minneapolis: downtown with its miles of skyway system; The Metrodome; the University of Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers, and home to a top medical school; and a connection that is particularly special for me ... the way to the Minnesota State Fair, otherwise known as “The Great Minnesota Get-together.”
The fair begins 12 days before Labor Day, and brings in folks from all across the upper Midwest. Most in Minnesota believe it is the best state fairs in the country. Of course other states may dispute that. But for Minnesotans, it's the only fair that matters — it's where the city meets the country. And for a state whose major industry for years came from its farming community, the fair meant dollars; it still does. Everyone I knew, from various backgrounds, cultures and religions, came to the state fair. My family and I had a tradition of getting up at 5 a.m. to get the fair grounds when the gates opened at 6 a.m. … and the road we'd travel to get there is across 1-35W.
Now that tradition is over for many years to come.
That heartland interstate stretched over the Mississippi River — “Old Man River” that just keeps rolling along. The waters of that great stream are also in Minnesota. There wasn't a time that I crossed that bridge that I didn't recognize that down below was part of the greatest waterways in America. But, from now on, my thoughts will be, "remember the day when the bridge came down?”
Our thoughts and prayers should now be for those who lost their lives and the family members grieving ... as well as those who suffered injuries and face a long recovery. But Minnesotans are up to the task. They don't call it "Minnesota nice” for nothing. They will pull together and help those who need it. Whatever their differences and whatever the challenges, people will bring great hope to something that seemed without hope ... and will bring new meaning to the phrase "The Great Minnesota Get-together."
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."