My name is Kimberly Brown. I am a Minneapolis resident and 35W bridge collapse survivor. I was in car B3, which landed partially in the river hanging from its front wheels on a slab of concrete on the south end of the bridge.
People should think of the survivors and victims’ families as part of the rebuilding effort. Here’s why.
Opinion: Bridge Victims Fund and the NTSB: A survivor’s perspective
Our efforts to lobby our legislature are new to many of us. Put simply, this is about real people who deserve fair treatment, and that means a Victims Fund.
First, the NTSB Briefing –
Mark Rosenker’s statements on January 15th seem to contradict what an NTSB Representative told our Survivor’s Support Group last year when they promised and cautioned us that they won’t draw conclusions until all facts are known.
For Rosenker to say, “bridge inspections would not have identified the error in the design of the gusset plates” and in reference to the gusset plates, “this tells us why it fell” seems suspect, or at the least, irresponsible.
This NTSB announcement should not be exploited like a get-out-of-jail-free card. As much as some legislators may want wash their hands clean of this, as much as I presume that some may want us (Survivors) to just “go away,” we can’t.
When Minnesota decided to put the bridge under two major renovations, in 1977 and 1998–increasing the thickness of the concrete and the barrier walls for starters–why didn’t those experts know that the original design specs may no longer fit? It shouldn’t take an engineer to figure this out.
The State of Minnesota had a responsibility to re-evaluate the design and ensure the public safety, no matter what. There is never a suitable excuse. It’s their job. It’s why we, as taxpayers, pay them.
And, why can’t the original design calculations or designers names be found, if for no other reason than for the sake of truth being told? I hope that our leaders, regardless of party affiliation, realize that this seems a bit too convenient.
Mr. Rosenker’s statements should not give Minnesota the ultimate excuse like “we just didn’t know,” because they did. In an October 18, 1993 Mn/DOT inspection report, it specifically identified not only that the gusset plates were only ½” thick, but that one that was fractured was even less. To add to survivors’ astonishment, later that week, a story broke that in 1996 a bridge in Ohio (the I-90) had the same problem!
Now, on to a Victim Compensation Fund –
Representative Ryan Winkler and Senator Ron Latz–who heads the Joint House-Senate Committee on Claims–are working on matching versions of a bill for a Victim Compensation Fund that could be presented to the governor early in the upcoming legislative session, which opens February 12th.
How Minnesota takes care of the survivors and victims should concern all of us. It could have been you; it could have been anyone’s family, on that bridge that day.
If we’re successful in getting a bill passed for a fund, allow me to clear up one misconception. Survivors and victims aren’t dreaming of getting rich. They are dreaming of repairing their lives; of having the strength to face the future without their spouse, brother, sister, husband, wife, partner, best friend, mother, father, aunt, uncle, or child; and of looking to the future despite their injuries without fear of financial ruin.
From our perspective, this is not a party issue, this is a human issue. What side of the ballot on which you vote is not what we should demonize. The real demon may be political spin and public complacency.
This tragedy affected people of all ages, all races, and from a variety of backgrounds. There are more than 145 real people, and 13 real families, who suffer the consequences every day for Minnesota’s alleged-ignorance.
Whatever the cause, where will the State of Minnesota place its priorities?
This catastrophic, unprecedented, one-of-a-kind, human-made occurrence should never happen again.
The next time you go to a gopher game, buy popcorn and a hotdog, or wear the colors of Maroon and gold and cheer, remember that the State pays the coach’s $13 million dollar salary, and then put yourself on that bridge that day.
Can Minnesota have it all?
Thirteen families have lost a person like Artemio Trinidad-Mena, who was only 29 years old, just trying to get home to his wife and young children. When you sit in traffic, trying to get home tomorrow–ask yourself, what if it was me?
The fundamental question that the bridge collapse should have for everyone is, “Are we going to die because Minnesota’s bridges can’t hold us?”
A Victims Fund could be Minnesota’s way of saying our bridges will never fall again. We are that confident. We can’t restore these people, but we’re going to help them. It’s the right thing to do.
Can’t we do things differently? Let’s look to the future and give bridges top billing. Let’s invest the money needed to fix our infrastructure, let’s do better repairs (and not just inspections), or close bridges when safety is in question. Let’s stop arguing and just do whatever it takes.
It’s better than the alternative.
A Victim’s Fund can provide some psychic repair for Minnesota’s citizens. It’s a symbolic and meaningful way that the State can essentially say–on a very human level–we’re sorry this happened. We’re sorry you were hurt. We’re sorry we can’t bring back your loved one–but we promise, we’ll learn from this.
It’s a good first step to restore some of the trust that people lost in the government entities in charge of our bridges. Don’t just buy concrete–help those people start to heal.
People who want to help can do so by corresponding with their legislators. Go to www.35wbridge.com.