Hundreds Gather Year After Minnesota Bridge Collapse

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It was another perfect summer day — so similar and yet so different from that day a year ago when the Minneapolis freeway bridge fell.

On Aug. 1, 2007, there was crashing and panic and disbelief and horror.

On Friday, there were songs and doves and tears and hugs. And then silence, to remember the moment a year ago.

Minnesotans came together for two memorial ceremonies in Minneapolis to mark the anniversary of the Interstate 35W bridge disaster, which killed 13 and injured 145.

Hundreds gathered in Gold Medal Park and marched to the thrum of bagpipes to the Stone Arch Bridge, just up the Mississippi River from the bridge that fell. A new bridge, still under construction, already stands in its place. The red firetruck from Fire Station 11 — the first rescuer on the collapse scene — led the procession.

Shortly before 6:05 p.m., the time of the collapse, Minneapolis Police Inspector Mike Martin read the names of those who died: Julia Blackhawk. Richard Chit. Paul Eickstadt. Sherry Engebretsen. Peter Hausmann. Patrick Holmes. Greg Jolstad. Vera Peck. Christine Sacorafas. Hana Sahal. Sadiya Sahal. Scott Sathers. Artemio Trinidad-Mena.

Their relatives watched from a riverboat below, hugging and grieving. The Minneapolis Queen sounded its horn for each name.

And then the crowd fell silent to remember how a freeway bridge fell apart beneath the people driving over it.

Construction workers on the new bridge unfurled a large American flag, which fluttered in a stiff breeze.

The crowd included bridge victims, police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, bus drivers, construction workers, top state officials and those who just wanted to remember. The Coulters, a family who survived the collapse, rode an ambulance onto the bridge and got their fist look at the site that almost claimed their lives.

"Not a day goes by when we don't think about it," said Paula Coulter, who is recovering from a brain injury.

Her daughters cried as they looked at the scene, while her husband, Brad, said he was thinking of those who died.

Amy Lindholm was taking in the scene for the first time since the collapse, too, still wearing a plastic brace around her torso and holding her young daughter's hand. Lindholm, 33, said she wouldn't have missed the event, even though she has never liked being up on bridges.

"Every day is a recovery," she said. "It's just hard to believe it's been a year."

Work halted on the new bridge for six hours to observe the anniversary.

The ceremony drew many who just wanted to remember, even though they didn't know anyone on the bridge when it fell.

"I wasn't personally affected by it, but it's kind of wounded my city and it's a way to remember and think about what happened in the past year," said Christine Isenberg, 27, who leaned on the railing and looked at the new bridge.

She added: "There used to be a bridge, then there wasn't a bridge, now there's this bandage over where it used to be."

Earlier in the day, Buddhist monks chanted, American Indians pounded drums, and Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Greek Orthodox and Catholic leaders offered prayers and scripture, reflecting the religious backgrounds of those who died.

Church officials said the interfaith service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis drew 1,000 people, from bridge collapse victims to top state officials. People bowed their heads and shut their eyes, remembering and grieving.

Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said the tragedy touched people around the world, raising basic questions about bridges and their safety.

"We all cross bridges, and I'm not talking about metaphors," Dyck said.

She added: "I still don't go over the Mississippi here in Minnesota that I don't look down and remember and pray."

Mercedes Gorden, whose legs and back were severely hurt in the collapse, broke down and cried during the service. The past year has been difficult, she said.

"I thought I'd be able to keep my composure, but no such luck," Gorden said.

But there were also signs of healing.

Justina Hausmann, who lost her father, Peter Hausmann, said she has found strength she didn't know she had.

"I think that my dad can help me now more than he ever could before," said Hausmann, 17.

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