Patrick Holmes, 36, of Mounds View, was found dead at the scene of the bridge collapse that same night.
His wife, Jennifer, heard the news a little after midnight. The autopsy shows Holmes died instantly from his injuries after falling onto the collapsed portion of 35W. He was on his way home from work.
The couple has two children -- a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.
"He was a great husband, he was a great father. He loved spending time doing stuff with them. He coached our son in baseball and loved it and he's going to be missed," says Jennifer Holmes.
Her husband had crossed the bridge thousands of times in the five years he'd worked as an exercise therapist in Bloomington. Jennifer can't fathom why this time, it collapsed underneath him, sending vehicles into the water, crushing many under concrete and steel.
"How can you know why?" she wondered. "We don't have control over what happens."
Holmes' friends called him Homer, but it was about more than a surname.
Patrick Holmes was a baseball player, a top-notch hitter and pitcher in the St. Paul Municipal Men's League. He played third base, too, and shortstop and the outfield, and he had a bit of a mouth on him.
"Homer had a passion to play," says Jack Munich, his manager on the Sport and Spine Chiropractic team. "He was a guy who always came to compete. He expected others to play as hard, and he didn't beat around the bush."
Holmes was pitching well in the city championship game in 1999 when he gave up a walk and a hit in the 9th inning.
Munich thought it was time to make a change, but Holmes was not happy when the skipper pulled him off the mound and sent him to shortstop.
When Holmes went to the bench to change gloves, he looked at Jack and said, "I won't forget this."
Holmes didn't hold that grudge, especially since he got the victory. But as hard as he played, the former Hill Murray High School and Winona State University star knew when it was time for his son.
Holmes retired from baseball after the 2006 season to coach that son, now 6 years old, in t-ball. He also signed up to coach him in soccer this fall, and he told his wife, Jennifer, that he had high hopes for their 4-year-old daughter, as well.
Holmes sent an e-mail to his fellow players when he was planning to leave his team.
"My job is to raise my kids and make them the best people they can be," he wrote. "Hopefully, my enthusiasm toward baseball will rub off on them and they'll get as much enjoyment out of it as I have.
"My life has to turn the page," Holmes said. "It's not about me anymore."
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