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New 35W memorial design unveiled

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Memorial rendering
An artist's rendering of the to-be constructed 35W memorial. The text reads: "Our lives are not determined by what happened to us, but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results."
Courtesy the City of Minneapolis

Thirteen pillars will be the centerpiece of a new memorial planned to honor victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, which occurred on Aug. 1, 2007 in Minneapolis. 

The memorial will feature a combination of stone, water and light to mark the lives of the 13 people who died in the collapse, and the many more who were injured or risked their lives to save others. 

The site for the Rememberence Garden is located near the West River Parkway in downtown Minneapolis. 

The 10-foot pillars will run in a line next to a sidewalk, which has a view of the Mississippi River. Behind the pillars will stand a wall engraved with a verse commemorating the occasion, along with a pathway to an observation point which will overlook the site of the disaster. 

View renderings of 35W memorial.

Architect Tom Oslund of Minneapolis said the design is based on something of a numbers game. 

"There's five components to the memorial garden. The first being this long plaza which is 81 feet  long, commemorating 8/1," he said. 

Each of the 13 pillars will be inscribed with the name of one person who died in the bridge collapse. The pillars will be spaced 13 feet  apart. 

The walkway from the memorial to the observation deck overlooking the river will be 65 feet long, which is a reference to the time of the collapse -- 6:05 p.m.

Architect Tom Oslund
Architect Tom Oslund describes the planned 35W memorial in Minneapolis on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Oslund said the choice of the color blue to backlight the pillars and the walkway has a different meaning. 

"Blue is actually a color we have actually tied with Gold Medal [Park,] the Guthrie, the area," Oslund said. "It's actually one of the colors that actually is the most clear at night for everybody to read."

The memorial will also contain a stone wall, shorter than the pillars, that will contain the names of bridge survivors. A sheet of flowing water will envelop the wall. 

A group of bridge collapse survivors was involved in the design process. And some of them attended the unveiling Thursday afternoon. One of them, Brent Olson, said the memorial is a testament to how a group of people thrown together by the disaster can help produce something positive.

"This will be a place where we survivors and others affected by the bridge collapse can go and reflect on what happened that fateful day," said Olson. "The families and friends of those who were killed will never get to see their loved ones again. But I pray that this memorial and remembrance garden will give them solace in knowing they will not be forgotten."

Brent Olson
Brent Olson was on the bridge the day it collapsed in August 2007.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

The memorial will cost $1.5 million. It will be paid for with money from a $52 million lawsuit settlement between URS Corp. and a group of bridge collapse victims. The engineering firm had consulted on the bridge's condition before it fell.

This is the second design and second site for a memorial. The previous plan ran into logistical problems.

Despite those problems, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he was confident a memorial would be built. He said without the money set aside in the settlement of the lawsuit, it may have taken longer to get it done. 

"The biggest challenge came from fundraising in a very difficult financial climate," said Rybak. "And also in siting a memorial that we knew we wanted to be here, but we knew we wanted it to be permanent."

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board owns the land where the memorial will be built. A park board official says the board still needs to add its final approval, but doesn't see any barriers to the project. 

Rybak said he expects the memorial to be built in time for next year's anniversary of the bridge collapse, on Aug. 1, 2011.