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The I-35W Bridge Collapse: A Survivor's Account of America's Crumbling Infrastructure
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March 2019: Other Books > The I-35W Bridge Collapse: A Survivor's Account of America's Crumbling Infrastrucure by Kimberly J. Brown - 4*

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message 1: by Doughgirl5562 (last edited Mar 02, 2019 09:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doughgirl5562 | 141 comments Bridges shouldn’t fall.

But on August 7, 2007 the bridge on I-35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. It was rush hour and a traffic jam, and all those cars on the bridge fell into the river. 145 people were injured – and 13 people were killed. You ask anyone who was a resident of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area at that time, and they can probably tell you where they were when they heard the news. I was at work in downtown Minneapolis, probably about two miles away from the bridge – and only a mile or so from the trauma center at HCMC where many of the injured were taken. And along with everyone else, I was in shock and total disbelief that this could even happen….. But it did.

The author – Kimberly Brown – was a passenger in a car on the bridge when it collapsed. Their car fell a hundred feet, but was prevented from falling into the river because it landed on part of the fallen bridge. Both Kimberly and the driver were able to climb out of the car and to safety. Kimberly had no obvious injuries (except being covered in glass shards). And in the weeks, months and years to come, spinal damage became apparent, and Kimberly also developed PTSD from the trauma of the fall. Not only could she not cross bridges, but she couldn’t go into parking ramps, airplanes, or elevators without issues. Per Kimberly, the PTSD was sometimes worse than the physical damage to her body.

In her pursuit towards healing, Kimberly took multiple steps and pursued multiple therapies (including some more unusual therapies like cupping and EMDR). She started attending meetings with other survivors. And she started doing research into the bridge and why it fell. She put her notes from the research into a letter and sent it to every Minnesota state senator and congressperson. In effect, she became an advocate and spokesperson for the survivors.

So what did Kimberly find out? Well, she found out that multiple annual inspections had found problems with the bridge. The same issues (such as missing bolts and rotated bearing blocks) were noted year after year after year. One or more gusset plates that held up the trusses were bending. But none of this was repaired. The federal law says that the bridges have to be inspected - but they don't have to be repaired.

The findings of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) were that the cause of the bridge collapse was faulty design. The gusset plates were insufficiently designed. But Kimberly's research makes a good case for lack of maintenance being part of the cause also. Forensic firms hired by lawyers representing the victims came to the same conclusion.

I'll end this review with this excerpt from the book, which I don't think I will ever forget:

Thirteen fracture critical bridge inspections traced the decay of the 35W Bridge – from 1994 to 2006.
Thirteen years of broken bolts.
Thirteen seconds for the bridge to fall.
Thirteen killed.

“Remember the Thirteen.”

message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (Joabroda1) | 2726 comments I remember when that happened, it was such a shocking tragedy.
Very nice review, the book quote gave me chills.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I also remember that happening. A tragedy that could have been prevented. It is reminiscent of plane and car accidents when there were known issues and nothing is done until there are deaths. Good review.

message 4: by Joi (new)

Joi (MissJoious) | 2368 comments I've never heard of this incident, this is absolutely terrifying!!

message 5: by Nikki (new)

Nikki | 205 comments This is strange timing! I'd never heard of that disaster until today, when I was trying to learn about the different US presidential candidates for 2020 (I'm English living in Seattle so intrigued by it all). I was looking at their campaign announcement speeches etc, & Amy Klobuchar spoke in hers about the bridge collapse and some of the heroic things people did. Then I came here and saw this... Thanks for the great review.

message 6: by NancyJ (last edited Mar 04, 2019 10:26PM) (new)

NancyJ (NancyJJJ) | 1300 comments Excellent review! You really make me want to read it. The personal story and healing process sounds very interesting, and I love a good crusade. Good for her. We've been hearing more in my area too about bridges (and railroad tracks) in need of repair. Doesn't it seem like this cause should get great bi-partisan support in the government?

Before this happened, I had a client in Minneapolis, and I must have been on that road many times. My mom lived in St Paul then, so of course she remembers it. The excerpt is very powerful.

Doughgirl5562 | 141 comments Thank you for all of your comments. I spent more time on this review than I usually do because the topic is so important, so I really do appreciate the comments.

And yes, Nancy, this is a cause that SHOULD get bi-partisan support. But the problem is that the need for infrastructure maintenance isn't usually apparent - so it's easy for those in power to allocate the funds to something else that seems more urgent - until something like this happens.

Since reading this book - and writing the review - I've learned that one of my friends drove over the bridge about fifteen minutes before it fell. Gave me goosebumps!

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