In a horrific scene of Biblical proportions, "dozens of vehicles were scattered and stacked on top of each other amid the rubble" when a major-artery bridge spanning the Mississippi between Minneapolis and St. Paul collapsed yesterday, stranding some commuters "on parts of the bridge that weren't completely in the water" (Brian Peterson/AP photo)
"Would you have run to the bus? I'll answer for you: yes," writes James Lileks, blogging at the Star Tribune's buzz.mn last evening about that Minneapolis man who survived the fall of the Twin Cities freeway bridge and "then ran to help the kids on the bus":
Most of us would. It’s a remarkable instinct that wells up and kicks in, and it’s something you never expected to experience. As someone said about humans: We’re at our best when things are worst.
"I’ve driven across this bridge every few days for thirty years," notes Lileks in a touching tribute to the bridge that was:
There are bridges, and there are bridges; this one had the most magnificent view of downtown available, and it’s a miracle I never rear-ended anyone while gawking at the skyline, the old Stone Bridge, the Mississippi. You always felt proud to be here when you crossed that bridge, pleased to live in such a beautiful place. Didn’t matter if it was summer twilight or hard cold winter noon -- Minneapolis always seemed to be standing at attention, posing for a formal portrait. We’ll have that view again -- but it’ll take a generation before it’s no longer tinged with regret and remembrance.
Lileks commenter Foamer reports on the reporters last night:
Coverage seems to be about the same (I was watching Fox until recently) as any major disaster type event -- they basically tell you everything they know in 5 minutes and then repeat that every 10 minutes with inane guessing to fill in the space.
One of the Fox News reporters this morning is saying the impact of the collapse on the life of the Twin Cities is comparable -- in terms of psychological and traffic-circulation trauma -- to the fall of the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan. So far, authorities say there is no evidence of terrorism.
Road crews had been repaving travel lanes and replacing rails when the bottom fell out. As Minneapolitan Captain Ed writes, "We joke out here that we have two seasons, winter and Road Construction. The ravages of ice, snow, gravel and salt have to be remedied on a regular basis. That kind of work would almost certainly not have created the kind of failure we saw today." Instead, something more insidious may have been at play: In 2005 "the bridge had been rated as 'structurally deficient,' which would normally have flagged it for higher-priority maintenance or possibly replacement," notes the Captain, who has a link to a security video that caught the collapse. (Erik S. Steinmetz/AP photo)
"What do you tell your kids?" worries Lileks:
Mine was shaken by the news, because in the mind of a seven-year old, bridges don’t collapse. I imagine she’ll wonder about the other bridges we travel. She’s not alone.
And maybe there's a silver lining in that. Or, more likely, Wretchard's words in the wake of the December 2004 tsunami will apply:
There will be momentary interest, a search for scapegoats and then a gradual return to forgetfulness.
"It's only human to forget -- repress? -- horrific experiences, to move on," we wrote back then:
Those who were there and lived to tell the tale are scarred for life and will never forget. They know it in their bones and will try to warn the world -- of what? Pay attention to your surroundings? Don't take anything for granted? Repent before it's too late? -- with their stories. Locally it will enter the communal lore. But beyond the region, it won't stick. The rest of us out here in the larger world -- who only hear of it, see media images and try in our mind's eye to imagine the horror but then can turn away to the comfort of our everyday lives -- we are the ones in danger of forgetting.
When talking and blogging heads read into this awful event -- and they will read into it -- they will find a perfect metaphor for the vulnerability of the foundations of freedom in this land of the free, where hairline cracks in the nation's belief in itself -- wrought by the relentless ravages of anti-American multiculturalism and political correctness -- are even as we blog being paved over by those who have forgotten that freedom is not free. Fortunately, as Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is saying in a late-morning news conference, Minnesotans -- both professionals whose job it is to deal with emergencies and everyday citizens who happened to be on the scene -- had learned the lessons of 9/11 and were impressively prepared to roll up their sleeves and deal with yesterday's chilling challenge. More good news for freedom from Miss Kelly, who brings word of what Egyptian-born Italian writer and journalist Magdi Allam calls "the residual hope for Western civilization, which, more than other civilizations, embodies the sacredness of life and personal freedom."
Update: We were just thinking about the old John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge -- opened in 1954 -- that spans the Merrimac River between Newburyport and Amesbury. We'll be crossing it this afternoon on our way down Goomp's. Googling, we found to our surprise that it is scheduled for a $132 million replacement in the winter of 2010/11:
The existing 6-lane bridge will be replaced with a new 8-lane structure matching the existing 8-lane roadway cross section to the south. The bridge will remain open to traffic throughout construction.
"Hope they do a better job than they did on the tunnel," quips Goomp.