Hundreds gather at the 35W bridge to remember

Flag unfurling
Construction workers on the new I-35W bridge unfurl a flag during a moment of silence for the victims of last year's bridge collapse.
MPR Photo/ Bill Alkofer

With the replacement span already visible in the distance, the ceremony marking the I-35W bridge disaster got underway.

Gold Medal Park was silent for the first time in months, as work on the new bridge paused in honor of the anniversary. But despite the quiet, it was hard to forget the reason for the gathering as people began lining up along the Stone Arch Bridge hours before the service began.

Joni Barrett was there, looking out over the railing at the site of the new I-35W bridge with some cousins from Stearns County.

Memorial marchers
First responders, survivors and others involved with the I-35W bridge collapse make their way to the Stone Arch Bridge for an anniversary ceremony.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

She says they planned their annual family reunion around the anniversary as a way to pay tribute to the victims of the disaster. They weren't planning to attend the memorial service. Barrett says they wanted to honor the tragedy beforehand in a more personal way.

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"We will probably go home and count our blessings, how lucky we are that none of our family was killed or actually on the bridge," she said.

Barrett says she and her children used the I-35W bridge for work all the time before it collapsed.

Bridge collapse survivor Josh Weidendorf
I-35W bridge collapse survivor Josh Weidendorf pauses for reflection during a ceremony honoring the victims. Weidendorf survived the bridge collapse with an injured leg.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

About 140,000 vehicles crossed the bridge every day when it went down, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

Bailey Schomaker was thinking about the people who lost their lives that day as she prepared to sing with a church choir at the memorial service.

Peter Hausmann, who died in the collapse, was from her hometown of Rosemount. Schomaker says her community is still mourning Hausmann's loss. She says the Church of St. Joseph Choir wanted to participate in the service as a way of honoring his memory.

"They feel really strongly that they need to support everyone," she said, "and they are just willing to give the gift of sound to help. We are just thinking about the Hausmann family, and every other family that lost someone or anyone who was affected by this at all."

Joel Beyer pays respect
Joel Beyer of Minneapolis paid respects to the victims of the 35W bridge collapse at a ceremony Friday. "I just wanted to be part of this moment," he said.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

Schomaker says she still has trouble driving over bridges, even a year after the I-35W bridge went down.

At the service singer Cathy DeCheine sang a song she wrote a few weeks after the collapse called "Ordinary Workday."

"It seemed nothing could ruin this fine summer day," goes the song.

The program also included dance, gospel and Japanese drumming. Organizers say the goal of the service was to reflect the diversity of the people who were killed or injured in the disaster.

As Minneapolis Police Department Inspector Mike Ma
As Minneapolis Police Department Inspector Mike Martin read the names of each of the bridge collapse victims, a dove was released on the Stone Arch Bridge. From the paddle boat below (right) family members of the 13 victims threw a memorial wreath into the Mississippi.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

After about an hour of music, people began lining up in formation to march to the Stone Arch Bridge. The Emerald Society Bagpipe Group led the procession. Behind them were first responders, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other elected officials and community members.

The group walked slowly along the river and onto the Stone Arch Bridge for the reading of victims' names. A fire truck from Fire Station 11, the first rescuer on the scene, and two ambulances led the march onto the bridge.

"Turn your head to the new 35W bridge for the unfurling of the American flag in honor of the victims, their families and all those changed by this tragedy," said the master of ceremonies.

Kortnie Ringate
Kortnie Ringate holds on to her husband Jeff Ringate during a 35W bridge memorial on the Stone Arch Bridge Friday. Jeff Ringate was a construction worker on the bridge a year ago who survived a fall of 115 feet when the bridge collapsed.
MPR Photo/ Bill Alkofer

At a little past 6 p.m., the crowd observed a moment of silence marking the moment when the bridge fell. As they watched, construction workers unfurled a large American flag across the river on the new I-35W bridge.

Breaking the silence, bells rang out, joining a chorus of church bells that rang out across the state.