Minneapolis Bridge Collapse: A Disaster of Enormous Scope

Editor's Note: Jeff Goldblatt is covering the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Continue checking back throughout the day for updates to his reporter's notebook, and for the latest video from the scene.

Minneapolis, Minn. — I heard the first call to my Blackberry; it came in after 6:30 p.m. CT. In this business, constant communication is a must. However, it wasn’t until the ring of the second call, shortly thereafter, that I realized someone immediately needed me. I pulled my 20-month-old daughter off the changing table and rushed into the kitchen, where I would soon learn the news. The e-mail read "Urgent. Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis. Need you to get to O’Hare. 8:01 p.m. flight."

Reading that e-mail, I sprung into action. Typically, I keep a bag at-least semi-packed, for stories requiring a move at moment’s notice. I live fewer than 20 miles from the airport. My record drive time there is 14 minutes. I certainly pushed that record as I raced to O’Hare at a speed I care not to share with police nor my family.

Good thing I’m still in decent shape and know O’Hare very well after nearly eight years of working for FOX, based in Chicago. After parking, I quickly broke out into a full sweat, lugging a carry-on bag, a laptop computer, and my briefcase. A torrent of perspiration rushed down my face, my heart rate and my legs kicking into overdrive. Gasping for air, I finally made it to the ticket counter, where an agent told me I had two minutes to spare before the airline stopped issuing tickets.

At the gate, it was clear passengers were well aware of the bridge collapse. Some struggled to get through to relatives in the Twin Cities to ensure they were OK. Others speculated on the cause of the crash. Some watched nearby TVs in hopes of gaining any nugget of news about the tragedy which had befallen their community. Upon landing, the landscape may have changed, but much of the focus was the same ... to the TVs suspended from the ceiling at various points throughout the International Airport.

We improvised on our drive to get downtown. Usually, 35 W is a staple of our trips to the heart of Minneapolis. But the closure of this major interstate over the Mississippi River forced us to detour through the city. Minneapolis, at least in the summer, doesn’t shut down like many major downtowns. I was struck by the sight of several people, decked out in Minnesota Twins gear. Apparently, they had just attended the Twins game. They seemed carefree, poking each other with what seemed to be game programs, laughing as they crossed the intersection. Meanwhile, only blocks away, was a disaster of enormous scope, with tons of debris from the mangled mass of what was once the Stone Arch Bridge resting awkwardly in the Mississippi River.

Minneapolis resident Jerry Clark heard the thunder of the bridge collapse from his 19th story apartment building, which overlooks the Mississipi. His recollection of the aftermath, specifically one scene setter, sticks with me at this moment. Upon looking out his window, he saw a huge cloud of smoke and a dozen white balloons, or so he immediately thought. After the shock cleared, he realized those weren’t balloons floating over the river. They were airbags from vehicles involved in what Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has called "a catastrophe of major proportions for Minnesota."

FOX News has LIVE team coverage throughout the day of the bridge collapse. Click here to see tonight's schedule. For another reporter's perspective, read Rick Leventhal's live-blogging updates.

Jeff Goldblatt, a Chicago based reporter for FOX News Channel (FNC), joined the network in September 1999 from WTVJ-TV (NBC), in Miami, Florida, where he served as a general assignment and investigative reporter. You can read his complete bio here.