Aug 1, 2012
Five years ago today, the 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, sending about 100 cars and 18 construction workers crashing toward the Mississippi. 13 people died. In the aftermath, pieces of the bridge were pulled from the river and laid out in a field downstream in order to investigate the cause of the collapse.
Photographer Vance Gellert writes about seeing this wreckage…
Passing over a bridge, a half mile down river from the collapse site, I noticed the twisted bridge parts being assembled on the river bank below….
The assembly from this perspective was surreal. It looked so fragile, spindly. How could that structure carry 140,000 cars a day for 50 years, the designated lifespan of the bridge? It couldn’t; it lasted 40 years…
This experience inspired Gellert to want to tell the story of this tragedy through pictures and the words of those who experienced it if they were willing. So three years after the collapse, Gellert began reaching out to those who had been affected most by it — survivors, victims’ families, first responders, and emergency workers.
When he met with survivor David Ostrowski, Ostrowski asked to have his portrait taken outside the fence that blocked access to the obliterated bridge.
Afterward, Gellert squeezed into the enclosure under the gate to take pictures of the “surreal sculpture park” that was…
…created in the 13 seconds it took for the bridge to collapse and speaks of the experience of the people who were on the bridge during those same 13 seconds…. The pieces, beautiful in themselves, stand as metaphors for the survivors’ experiences and as memorials to those that died.
Now, after two years, Gellert’s photos and interviews are going on display at the Mill City Museum.
Most of you aren’t in the Twin Cities, of course, so if you’re curious, you can see his photo series online.
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