I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to post this picture that I took on the night of the 35W bridge collapse. After my little party yesterday I was afraid it might be a downer, but a little reality is good too. The NTSB released a report yesterday saying that it was a design flaw, not maintenance issues that lead to the collapse on August 1st, 2007.
Though the investigation is still going, they found that the gusset plates were too thin. Those are the steel plates they rivet the beams together with. They should be one inch thick, but were only half-an-inch thick. There’s more information about this at the local paper, the Star Tribune and the New York Times. In my humble opinion, if they knew this before hand, there wasn’t anything that could be done, you really can’t replace those things. They might have been able to weld something to them, but it would have been a big deal to replace them without causing the bridge to collapse in the process.
Back to the picture. I took this at nine pm that night. While everyone was clamoring to try and see the bridge, the first responders had the whole area fenced out. There were thousands wandering around. Everyone was so quiet and polite, We all felt like we had to come down and see; to be part of the event, but stay out of the way of the people trying to do their job. There were emergency vehicles everywhere, helicopters, news trucks and big spotlights. It was a massive event, but everyone was totally calm and serious. I spoke with several people there; some wanted to tell what they felt, others asking for information, many just talking like one does at a funeral; polite, expressive, telling tales of earlier times that they had been on the bridge. All of us wanting not to be gawkers, but to be with everyone else.
All in all, it occurred to me while I was there that all my pics of the bridge area didn’t show anything new, the landing helicopters weren’t unique. What really struck me about being there was all the people just wandering around trying to stay out of the way, staying in the shadows. That’s what I wanted to capture with this image: a major event that you really couldn’t see. And all the people wanting to be there, but quietly.
When the solid waste hits the rotary ventilator, I want to be in Minnesota. People just don’t freak out here. They calmly do what they can and don’t get in the way. Car horns are rare. Our ‘natural disasters’ are just something you have to deal with. It’s no one’s fault, just get your shovel out, work your way through and then check on the neighbors.