Minnesota Bridge Collapse Survivors Take Pieces Of It Home
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Six years ago this month, the I-35 West Bridge in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed during the evening rush hour. Thirteen people died and 145 were injured when the eight-lane bridge fell into the Mississippi River below. Among those hurt that day was Kim Dahl. She was on the bridge driving a school bus full of dozens of children, including two of her own, and eight other adults. She remembers the bus rising up then freefalling 45 feet, crashing onto a road below.
KIM DAHL: And like a huge dust cloud came over the whole bus, and it was like silent for a minute. And then all of a sudden the kids started screaming and hollering. So I kept my one foot on the brake because the kids were getting off the back and then I took my other foot and lifted it up and pushed down on the park brake so the bus wouldn't roll back on the kids that were getting off. And then I just sat there because my seatbelt had me pinned in my seat.
BLOCK: All of those on the bus survived, but many suffered injuries, including Dahl, who broke her back. Well, this week, survivors of the collapse and family members of those who died were offered the chance to take home some of the bridge wreckage. The last lawsuit claims have been settled, and Minnesota's Department of Transportation opened its warehouse for victims' families to come and collect some of the mangled steel. Kim Dahl and her two children were among them.
DAHL: It was weird, an eerie feeling. It was like a ghost yard of bridge parts there, and they were twisted and turned and folded in half. And, you know, my husband and my son - my son was - is 11, and he's like, oh, I want the hugest piece. So he took a big piece in that. And my daughter is like, I don't know what I want. And so her and I walked around quite a bit and just kind of looked at stuff. And I honestly don't know why I even want a piece or wanted a piece of it.
BLOCK: What were the pieces that you chose? What are they like?
DAHL: My son took a huge gusset plate. The story about that was, well, his nickname was Gus when he was growing up and that. And after the bridge fell and that we'd call him Gusset Plate and Gusset. And I took a couple bolts and stuff. And then I took a piece of where we were underneath - what was directly underneath us. My daughter had taken the piece that was more square and that could stand on their own and that she's like, she didn't know what she was going to do with hers neither.
But I'm sure they'll figure out what they want to do with it. My husband said we should just put them in the garden and just let them be and kind of if you need to go pray there or kind of just sit there and look at them and think about what has happened to us and that. If anything, it's made our family stronger. So...
BLOCK: I was thinking that - I'm sure the - what happened on that bridge is with you every day. But to have a physical reminder of that at your home might be really even more disturbing.
DAHL: And if that's the case, then we'll get rid of it. You know, we'll put it away somewhere so that we don't have to see it as a everyday reminder of it. But me being physically injured and that and disabled now, it's going to be a daily reminder of what we went through in that every day. I mean, I get up in the mornings. It's hard for me to get up because I am in such pain.
Physical activity that I used to do and run and play with the kids, I can't do anymore. So, I mean, on top of having that stuff at the house and then me being physically injured and the scars and stuff, I mean, is a daily reminder of what we went through.
BLOCK: Well, Ms. Dahl, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much for taking the time.
DAHL: Thank you so much.
BLOCK: That's Kim Dahl of Anoka, Minnesota. She survived the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis six years ago and was among those who claimed pieces of the wreckage.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.