15 years later: Looking back at the I-35 bridge collapse

[anvplayer video=”5125956″ station=”998130″]

15 years ago, the nation watched in horror as news of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota began filtering out.

In that fateful rush hour, 13 people lost their lives. 145 more were injured. And people’s faith in infrastructure, came crashing down too.

Breanne Stromley was the 6 and 10pm producer at WDIO at that time. She remembers getting a phone call from her mother in the Twin Cities, asking if she’d heard about the collapse. “It’s one of those times, in Minnesota history, where people remember where they were,” Stromley told us.

While on the phone with her mother, she asked her to do something. “I asked her to hold the phone up to KSTP, so I could hear the update. And after about a minute, I knew we had to get everyone back here,” she said.

She was able to coordinate with KSTP and use their feed through a satellite link, so the Northland could see what was happening.

Senator Amy Klobuchar was a fairly new senator at the time. She was proud to be able to secure $250 million dollars to rebuild the bridge. But what she remembers most, are the stories of heroism and sacrifice.

“Hernandez, the school bus driver who got all 50 kids off the bus. They were coming from a summer program. The truck driver who perished, because he slammed into a wall instead of that bus, which would have pushed it over the edge. The off-duty firefighter tethering herself down, looking for survivors.”

Klobuchar said the collapse of the bridge was a clarion call for investment in infrastructure.

The Blatnik Bridge here in the Northland got inspected and reinforced gusset plates after the collapse.

Now it’s slated for replacement. Right now, crews are working on a $6 million dollar maintenance project to prolong the life of the bridge, but keep it safe for the 33,000 cars a day.

When you drive over the new I-35 bridge, which opened in 2008, it’s hard not to think about the immense loss. “You never drive over it, without thinking about that day,” Stromley added.