I was at work when the I-35W Bridge collapsed on August 1, 2007. I could not believe that it happened, even though we watched it on the television in the breakroom at each break time. I prayed my heart out, especially for two of my friends who work downtown, and I was relieved to find out they were okay. I also prayed for all of the victims lost, the survivors and for the First Responders and those who were just there to try and help as much as they could to get everyone off that bridge safely.
It's been 11 days and not all of the victims have been found. The divers are having a terrible time trying to get through the debris, the currents of the Mississippi River are creating whirlpools and the visibility is almost nill.
Above the waterline, the politicians and the media are busy making promises that this will never happen again, but they are also pointing fingers at who they feel is responsible for the collapse in the first place. If you ask me, I think they are all to blame.
One of the first things they brought up was the gas tax that was voted down last fall, citing if we had voted it in, this wouldn't have happened. Baloney! The money that would have been raised from that would not have saved that bridge, or the people who perished on it. Why does the government think that if you throw money at a problem it will solve the problem? It's not the money or lack thereof that created this problem in the first place.
If they are really concerned about the lack of money in our state's transportation budget, then why don't they take a pay cut and donate that portion to the transportation budget? HMMM?
Why don't they make the things that should be a priority a priority instead of making their little pet projects at the top of their agendas? When our governor, who is a Republican, said that he would veto the gas tax because he felt that Minnesotans were burdened enough with not one, but 2 stadiums being built, plus all the other little things they were trying to pass, he caught a lot of flack for it. Now he's being attacked in the media for not passing that bill. I think he was right. We don't need another tax, especially one on gas. We've done without it for this long, we can do without it a little longer. And when Governor Pawlenty took over, the state was so far in the red and in 4 years (his first term), he turned it around without raising taxes and whoohooo, we have a surplus! He was picked apart for cutting this and cutting that, but he had to do it in order to get the state back on track. But the other politicians were just drooling at where they could spend that money. No gas tax was being sought at that time, nobody ever mentioned a gas tax until last year, so why not put that surplus towards our roads, bridges and building the Northstar Rail to alleviate some of this traffic that seems to be getting worse and worse each year?
Now, I think he is going to have to do whatever he can to make the safety of our bridges a priority so this won't happen again. Anyone who has ever come to Minnesota knows, you are crossing a river, or a lake or a stream or some body of water in this state on a bridge and some bridges have more traffic than others.
The I-35W Bridge was a main artery into and out of downtown Minneapolis. Now everyone is going to have to figure out a new way to get there and home again. Not such a bad thing, but until the bridge is rebuilt, it's going to be a traffic nightmare. But I would rather see the traffic nightmare instead of the nightmare that occurred on August 1, 2007, happen again.
I'm not saying I have all the answers. I waited a while to post about this, because it has been a hard thing to process. I do know angels were there that evening, for the deaths have not reached the double digits yet. (As of this writing, the 9th victim was pulled from the wreckage today). Four others are missing. And the heroes of that night were shown in helping other people who were hurt and injured while they were hurt and injured themselves. They weren't thinking about who passed which bill for whatever political reason that night. They were doing what Minnesotans are famous for: Helping their neighbor. Maybe they should attend our next legislative session and show the politicians how it's done.
Please keep the families and all of the people still working in the recovery process in your prayers. Pray for those who passed on and for those who survived. Hug everyone you love, because you just never know.