Living in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, I’ve occasionally taken the 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in to Minneapolis. I read this comment on buzz.mn that holds true for me also (except for the regular use):
When I heard the 35W bridge collapsed, I couldn’t immediately place it, though I use it regularly. It’s not a landmark by any means. It hardly seems to be a “bridge” at all. When you’re on it, you can’t see the water and you have no sense of where the bridge ends or where it begins. It’s just a stretch on the Interstate with a good skyline view. In order to mentally place the bridge, I could not call the structure to mind–rather I had to think about where 35W crosses the Mississippi. In a way, it makes it all the more surreal. This doesn’t seem like the collapse of a gossamer structure suspended over a gorge. Rather it strikes me as the ground simply giving way beneath unsuspecting motorists.
Especially when I wasn’t very familiar with that stretch. I was always paying closer attention to road signs and lane changes.
When I first saw the news on the StarTribune web site last night at about 6:30pm, I couldn’t picture a whole bridge collapsing. One that I know about and use. I imagined it had to be one section. I couldn’t conceive of a disruption much bigger than the pavement explosions you sometimes hear about in very hot weather. But of course it was and is awful. Things turn in an instant.
Watching the news coverage last night, I thought about how fragile it all can be, this civilization of ours. Setting aside the direct human toll at the point of catastrophe–since I don’t have good, true words for that–I thought about the disruption this will cause to traffic for months and years. I thought about if a few more major points of infrastructure failed around the same time. I think we’re on the verge of an amazing technological revolution, maybe even a singularity, but events like this make you wonder if it could all come unraveled first. Or maybe if we’re even that close to breaking through.
I’m very curious about the cause. Bridges aren’t supposed to just fall down.