BRIDGE: A GATHERING and BRIDGE, the exhibition

August 3, 2012

On August 1, 2007, the 35W Bridge fell down.  Over the last five years, we were lost and shocked; we mourned and struggled to recover;  we designed, built and opened a new bridge; we wrote books like “The City, the River, the Bridge – edited by a friend, Patrick Nunnally at the University of MN;  we have come together to share our feeling and offer support; and we built a memorial for those lives we lost.  

On Sunday, the Star Tribune stories  devoted to the I35W bridge collapse began, remembering those that died, and sharing the stories of those that survived after the fall, their healing and rebirth.  We were reminded through a timeline of key steps in the recovery, and of the toll it took in 13 lives, and the toll it took on the 190 persons on the bridge when it collapsed, and the toll it took for on the 145 injured.

On Wednesday morning , we read 35 poems called “Fragments for the 35W Bridge” written by Todd Boss who had crossed over the bridge 20 minutes before it collapsed.

And,  last night, we came together as a community:


Bridge: n. a structure allowing passage across an obstacle, v. to create understanding between people.

On the fifth anniversary of the 35W Bridge collapse, many of us gathered last evening at Mill City, as “a brave, strong, resilient and prepared community.”

With that, Vance Gellert, the visual artist whose project was expanded this spring to include other artistic partners, set the stage for what was in store for the audience gathered in the Ruins Courtyard on the riverfront.

A collaborative effort by the City of Minneapolis, the Mill City Museum, Nautilus Music Theater, The Playwright’s Center, and Rain Tax Review of Books brought us together to reflect on the 1-35W Bridge collapse on August 1, 2007. The following is taken from the chapbook of original poetry commissioned for and shared at BRIDGE: A Gathering last evening.


Inspired by the work of artist Vance Gellert, who interviewed and photographed the survivors, first responders, and others, all of the artists involved sought to capture how such a tragedy touches everyone in our community.

This is no easy task, for no work of art can ever make up for the lives we lost that day. Yet if we also lost hope in the aftermath of the collapse-if we also lost our sense of connections, our drive to find a way across any impediment in search of a brighter future-then the arts, as they have throughout all of history and in every society, have an important role to play whether as a respite from the routine, a refuge from the overwhelming, a container for sprawling emotions, or a way to commemorate what is truly important.  Grappling with the bridge event, the poets here offer examples of grief, solace, bewilderment, criticism, acceptance, resolve, and yes new hope-all elements of the human spirit that endure through immense challenge and heartbreak.  As long as we can respond, in all senses of the word, then we can surely cope.

All the poets join…in offering up this work, as one of the poems puts it, ‘for the survivors, for the lost, for the bereaved’-that is, for everyone.

Following the ceremony itself, we moved back into Mill City Museum to view Gellert’s “ Bridge, an Exhibition”- photos  of survivors, families that lost loved ones, first responders, caregivers and supporters.

This morning the Strib front page showed a picture of Paula Coultier, a survivor in the audience last night with eyes closed during part of the play “In the Water”.  I can only imagine what she was seeing in her mind’s eye, and the fear she was re-experiencing.  I also had my eyes closed through that play. The verbal imagery so realistically reproduced the sounds that filled the air after the immediate silence following the collapse, that I, too, experienced the horror of the moment.

And today, we hear of one more victory…as Andy Gannon a survivor of the collapse, returned last night for the first time to the bridge and was able to cross over for the first time in five year…into better times ahead.



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