Monday, September 22, 2008

Bridging and Healing

The new 35W Bridge opened on Thursday, September 18, 2008 at 5:00 am. There was no official ceremony or ribbon-cutting; instead a most interesting spontaneous celebration of its opening took place. At each end of the bridge, fire trucks, ambulances, and patrol cars were stationed at the head of each lane, as a commemoration of the role they played in the immediate aftermath of the collapse. At 5:00 am on Thursday morning, they began to drive slowly across at 15 mph, with a long line of cars behind them. When the two sides crossed in the middle, the people in the cars behind began honking and shouting. The procession went slowly on until the bridge was full of vehicles on both sides, and then, when the official brigade got to each side, the bridge was open, speeds went up, and that was that. Click here to see some photos of the first few minutes.

I went across it on Thursday evening at about 9:15 pm, after my class. As I've noted before, it was hard to know you were even on the old bridge, in part because it was not a very long bridge, and also because it's kind of hard to see the river there. That's part of the reason why they installed the two "Blue Waves," which are being called the Gateway Monuments, on the new bridge. Those are the large wavy sculptures that mark the spot where the bridge is actually over the water. At night they're lit with blue lights. You see them before you get there on both the north and southbound approaches, and I noticed it's still hard to see the river from the northbound side on this new bridge. On the southbound side, you do see St. Anthony Falls and the lock and dam.

I had no practical reason to go over that bridge. As I've mentioned before, I'd only been over the old on perhaps 5 or 6 times in the 20+ years I've lived here. I've never lived or worked in the part of town it connects. But I suspect I was not the only person in the Twin Cities who just drove over it to drive over it last Thursday.

A few years back, I suffered a very large wound which took a long time to heal. Though part of it was healed by a skin graft, about half of it just had to heal slowly and carefully, and it was about 10 months before the wound was completely closed. The day when it was finally all healed was a day to celebrate, a significant milestone in that journey. One way I commemorated it was by going swimming, something I hadn't been able to do since the previous summer.

The bridge collapse was a wound in our city, and the opening day of the new bridge felt like that milestone. To be sure there are still scars and griefs to be borne. The city is altered. The new bridge isn't the same as the old, nor are the people who were on it, or who lost family members and friends when it collapsed. But the closing of that wound is a cause for celebration, a mark of one thing restored, I think. I am glad people were moved to honk and shout as they drew together in the middle of it.

This is a photo I took in February, 2006. I was on the West River Road in Minneapolis, looking south underneath the 35W bridge and beyond it the 10th Ave. Bridge. The one with the green undergirding is the 35W bridge which later collapsed on August 1, 2007. It's not possible to get a photo like this right now, as the West River Road is still closed at that spot.

Here is a photo of the debris from the old bridge. This photo was taken on Saturday, September 20, 2008, from the East Bank, just south of the motorcycle lots, below Fraser Hall on the University of Minnesota Campus.

Here is a view of the new 35W Bridge looking south from University Ave. on Saturday, September 20, 2008.

Here's a side view of the Gateway Monument at the south end of the bridge.
This was taken from below Fraser Hall as well, looking northwest toward downtown Minneapolis.
That's the 10th Avenue Bridge in the foreground. The new 35W bridge is painted white, but all that's visible of it in this photo is the monument and the light fixtures.

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