35W bridge collapse: Two years later

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by Heather Munro | August 1, 2009 • Today marks the second anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse near downtown Minneapolis. Although to me that day is a distant memory, its impact remains vivid for the survivors.

This morning I attended the screening of a documentary with my friend Erica and her family. This beautiful, vibrant young woman embodies the strength—and the courage—of the people who survived that day. I hope that each anniversary will get easier for her, and that every year the horror will seem a little more remote.

Here’s what I remember from that day.

August 1, 2007 had been an unremarkable day.

It had been in the 90s for almost a week, but my friend Amy and I had decided to brave the weather and go for a walk downtown.

We were walking along Old Main Street and were about to turn onto the Stone Arch Bridge when we heard a “whump.” It wasn’t particularly loud, nor was the plume of dust especially impressive.

Our conversation turned to speculation about whether another grain elevator was being demolished to make way for a fancy new condo building.

Then, a man nearby told us that a bridge had just collapsed. He looked panicky.

We were only two blocks away, so we all jogged toward the dust in hopes of helping someone. But instead we found ourselves at the edge of a bluff.

When the dust cleared, this is what we saw …

Two years later, I still can’t believe anyone survived. But I’m incredibly grateful. As horrible as this accident was, it could have been much worse.

Today my thoughts are with the people whose lives will forever be touched by the events of August 1, 2007.

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About the photos

I still struggle with guilt about having been only a witness, unable to help. But I take comfort in the fact that my photos have helped some people—like my friend Erica—come to grips with what happened.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Deb Pastner at the Star Tribune for having chosen some of these images for publication. I am equally indebted to Polaris Images in New York for their rights management of these photos. But I am especially grateful for the survivors I’ve met since that fateful day. They are truly an inspiration.

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