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1,000 gather in Mpls. to mourn bridge collapse

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Basilica service
About 1,000 people attended a memorial service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis this morning to remember the victims of last year's 35W bridge collapse.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

The memorial service at the Basilica of St. Mary included a broad range of people. Politicians, such as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman, joined Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.  Police, firefighters and other emergency personnel were also present.  

Some of the victims of the bridge collapse and their family members were seated together in a section of the large church.

Before the service, many of the victims hugged and shook hands when they saw someone they knew.  Others just sat silently making little eye contact with others.  

Justina Hausman
Justina Hausman of Rosemount. Hausman's father, Peter Hausman died in the bridge collapse. She said he was on his way to pick up a dinner guest when the bridge fell.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

John Bauer, pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary, welcomed an audience that filled about half of the church.   

"One year ago today, our community was struck with a great tragedy," Bauer told those assembled.

Many of the victims sat quietly and listened as religious leaders offered their thoughts, their prayers and their songs.

"We gather to remember this tragedy.  We honor those who have died.  We prayer for those who are wounded and are still struggling with our health, and we lift up all of the families who are afflicted in one way or another," said Bauer.

Gov. Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak spoke during the service, but the bulk of the time was dedicated to religious leaders.  

Even though eight different faiths were present, the message from each was nearly identical: the bridge collapse brought out the best in humanity and strengthened the community.

Linda Paul
Linda Paul of Minneapolis said the memorial service made her feel connected with the community.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Shikashant Sane with the Hindu Society of Minnesota said the bridge collapse re-enforced the notion that life if precious.

"We also learned that material things can be replaced, but our friends and family are irreplaceable. We came closer as families and as communities. We are reminded once again of life's most critical priorities, and each of us made the necessary course correction," said Sane.

Prayers were offered in an array of languages that reflected the diversity of the victims of the disaster.  

A Muslim religious leader sang verses from the Koran.  Monks recited Buddhist chants. Native Americans offered a drum prayer, and a Jewish leader recited his prayer in Hebrew.  

Sally Dyck, a Methodist Bishop, said she, like many, will always remember where she was when she heard the news.  And she said she, like many, will never cross a bridge the same way again.  

"We all cross bridges, and I'm not talking about metaphors - real, literal bridges.  I still don't go over the Mississippi here or throughout Minnesota that I don't look down and remember and pray," said Dyck.

"I thought I'd be able to keep my composure, but no such luck."

After the service was over, some of the victims and their family members held hands as they walked out into the bright sun. Some brushed away tears, and others offered hugs for what will be a long day for many. 

"I still can't believe it's been a year...," said  17-year-old Justina Hausmann of Rosemount who lost her father Peter in the bridge collapse.  

He was on his way to pick up a dinner guest that night.  Justina Hausmann said she misses her father, but she felt like she's grown since his death.

"How much stronger I've gotten, and how even without him being physically here, how strong you can be, I mean he can help me now more than he ever could before now that he's up there with God," said Justina. 

Linda Paul of Minneapolis says she's mostly recovered from the injuries she received from the bridge collapse.  She says she plans on attending this evening's memorial service, but she isn't sure how she'll react to the moment of silence at 6:05 p.m.

"I have no idea what I'll think or feel.  A lot of today is experiencing it in its moment," said Paul.

Paul says it's a bit unsettling to look at the bridge that will replace the one that fell into the river. She said she expects to travel across that bridge once its finished, but she says her husband will have to do the driving on that first trip.