The Bridge

The Bridge

Facing disaster in your own backyard

By Patrick Dougherty

November/December 2008

Wednesday, Day 1

I got home from my yoga class about 7:30, feeling refreshed and ready to make some dinner. I turned on the computer and looked at my e-mails. There was one from a friend in California that said, "Oh, my God. Your bridge! What a nightmare. I pray that you and your family are well and all of you are safe." I had no idea what she was talking about.

I went to the TV and turned it on. There to my horror was a bridge that I'd crossed hundreds, maybe thousands of times, and it was sprawling in a twisted heap. Bridge 9440, located only a few miles from my home in Minneapolis, had collapsed into the Mississippi River. A semitrailer was on fire, next to a ruined school bus. People were milling around, some obviously in shock, some bloodied, some carrying stretchers, some in the water. Ambulances and police were everywhere. I was stunned. Bridges don't fall down, especially just a few miles from my house.

I thought of my kids, but I knew where they were and that they were safe. I wondered if anybody else I knew was in the midst of the wreckage. I sat mesmerized in front of the TV for more than an hour, with the growing urge to do something. Sitting alone, watching and feeling helpless, was terrible. I wanted to go down to the bridge, but I knew the area was in turmoil and I knew I'd only be in the way.

Thursday, Day 2

I turned on the television as soon as I got up the next morning. There were still only…

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