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August 1st, 2008
09:51 PM ET

When the world crumbles beneath you

Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis after it collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007

Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis after it collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007

Alyssa Caplan
AC360° Staff

Earlier this week when a 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit Southern California, cameras at a “Judge Judy” taping captured a rare glimpse of the moments during the quake. You can see the panic as a once stable room starts to rock and roll.

Thankfully there were no fatalities or serious injuries – but as I watched the video, it was the first time I could really imagine how unnerving it would be to be in an earthquake. Despite what is going on in the world, there is a certain comfort that can found in standing on solid ground.

With the one year anniversary of the Minneapolis bridge collapse approaching, my thoughts quickly turned to another group of people whose world actually crumbled beneath them. Over the past year, I have thought of them often.

On Aug. 1, 2007, I sat at my desk at CNN’s New York offices and watched terrified, unable to get through to family members or friends in my hometown of Minneapolis as the story unfolded and images of the mangled bridge began to appear on television.

The next day, I was in Minneapolis helping find guests and stories for the show. One of my most memorable moments was with a guest who had been driving the day before when her car plunged off the bridge into the Mississippi. We were standing together at dusk on the roof of a building near the collapse where our live shot was set up. She somehow managed to survive the fall and escape from her submerged vehicle that was pinned under water between concrete slabs and debris.

She bravely agreed to take the crazy freight elevator (hard hat not optional) to the top of the building, which quite frankly, jilted me. Peering down in the distance with her at the wreckage, I simply could not believe she was standing next to me – standing, at times smiling, and making jokes. She talked about being underwater and thinking that she had to get out because she had fun plans for the weekend and this just couldn’t be the end. It is amazing to be reminded what resilient creatures we are; what the human spirit can endure.

Kim Dahl, who was driving a school bus filled of children and Lindsay Petterson were also on the bridge. They are part of an active online community, sharing their thoughts and journey of the last year. Their stories can be found here:

KIM DAHL
LINDSAY PETTERSON

August 1st, 2008
12:24 PM ET

Minneapolis Bridge Collapse: Then & Now

David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer

One year ago today the nation saw one of the worst bridge collapses in a generation.
The Interstate 35W bridge collapse killed 13 people and injured more than 100...

Just this week, the National Transportation Safety Board released new evidence in the collapse investigation. One of its findings revealed that a plate connecting the support beams under the bridge had fractured along a section that was corroded. This was a concern that state officials had in fact realized... 15 years ago... but did not see as 'critical' to repair.

The board did not draw any conclusions about what exactly caused last summer's collapse... But as people plan memorials today for the victims, where are we one year later in Minneapolis? Today a skeleton of the new bridge spans the river where the old one once stood… You can see the progress that has been made in one year in these ‘Then & Now” photos I put together.

But where are we one year later in America? Days after the collapse calls came from every town, city, and state official for ‘immediate repairs’ to other bridges… and still, two out of three of the busiest bridges in the United States. ... with known problems… have had no work done beyond regular maintenance …

Program Note: CNN’s Campbell Brown investigates the nation's crumbling infrastructure in a special report, "Roads to Ruin: Why America is Falling Apart." Special guests include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Friday, 8 p.m. ET

August 1st, 2008
11:57 AM ET

Fear of Bridges – Why aren't they fixed?

Program Note: CNN’s Campbell Brown investigates the nation's crumbling infrastructure in a special report, "Roads to Ruin: Why America is Falling Apart." Special guests include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Friday, 8 p.m. ET

Mercedes Gorden in the hospital. She has had nine surgeries since the bridge collapse last year.

Mercedes Gorden in the hospital. She has had nine surgeries since the bridge collapse last year.

Randi Kaye
AC360° Correspondent

When I came to Minneapolis a year ago to report on the collapse off the Interstate 35W bridge, it was still laying in the Mississippi River. Huge chunks of steel and concrete lay twisted in the water. The cause was found to be a design flaw. That bridge had been built in 1967.

Today, it is a different story. The new bridge spanning the Mississippi is nearly done, two months ahead of schedule. It is a concrete bridge that cost about $250 million to build. If it is done by September 15th, the contractor will get a bonus of $27 million. That’s the good news. The bad news is that many of the victims from that horrible day are still recovering. More than 145 people were injured when the bridge buckled, and 13 were killed. Some of the bodies weren’t found for weeks. Some of the survivors are still dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. They still have nightmares about falling off a bridge.

I spent some time yesterday with one survivor. Her name is Mercedes Gorden. She has had nine surgeries since the bridge collapse.
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