Victims honored, survivors’ stories told on 15th anniversary of 35W Bridge collapse
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Tragedy struck just after 6 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2007.
The Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis, filled with rush hour traffic, plunged into the Mississippi River below. Thirteen people died, and 145 others were hurt.
Monday marked 15 years since that day, but for the families of the victims, it felt like yesterday.
Every year on the anniversary of the bridge collapse, Jessica Seidl spends time at Minneapolis’ Gold Medal Park.
It’s a time for her to reflect: Her mother, Sherry Engebretsen, is forever honored at the 35W Bridge Memorial.
Engebretsen is represented by one of the 13 pillars commemorating the lives lost in the tragedy; 170 people who were on the bridge have their names etched in stone as well.
“I mostly just remember my mom on this day and just know that she’s, you know, very proud of the woman that I’ve become,” Seidl said.
The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the collapse on gusset plates that were half as thick as they should have been — a flaw in the original design.
As Seidl and her family watched rescue crews on the news work to save lives, she frantically tried to get ahold of her mom.
“I just didn’t give up,” Seidl recalls. “Kept calling her cell phone, you know, leaving voice mails. ‘Please come home mom,’ you know. ‘We miss you. We love you.’ And then to find out that she was, you know, wasn’t coming home.”
Filmmaker Daniel Kenney says he tries to honor the families of the victims every year by bringing flowers to the memorial.
“They went through something that was really difficult,” he said. “And it’s just — I want to honor them.”
The memorial wasn’t Kenney’s only stop on Monday.
At a theater in St. Paul, Kenney invited survivors from the bridge collapse to watch his film, “One Day in August: Remembering the 35W Bridge Collapse.”
“This is more than a story to me because I got to know a lot of the people personally — family members, families who lost loved ones and people who were on the bridge when it collapsed,” Kenney said.
The film shares reflections from 15 survivors.
“I heard a loud boom, and that was the bridge coming back down and then a second or two later my car slamming back down onto the bridge,” one survivor recalls in the film. “And then within one or two seconds the whole bridge dropped as one.”
“Everything flashed before my eyes — my family, my friends, my church, everyone I care about,” another survivor explains. “Also like the significance of my life, just how people would feel, just lots of things flash through your eyes when you think you’re going to die.”
Seidl feels work like “One Day in August,” along with the memorial for her mom and many others, has made a difference.
“It just it makes us, the victims’ families, feel good that they’re still remembered,” Seidl said. “And then they’ll always be here with us. So I think having that knowing that it really gets me through.”