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Continued: I-35W Bridge Collapse: The Aftershocks

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 22, 2007 - 6:56 PM

It stopped her in her tracks, hand over thumping heart.

Parking ramps. Bridges. Even her office building. Brown questions the stability of everything now.

"I pretty much think about it all the time," she said.

Priorities have changed, too. She finds herself impatient with grousing. When a co-worker complained that nobody was refilling the office coffee pot, she stopped herself from snapping: How about I drop you off a bridge and see how much you care about your coffee pot?

She appreciates life's little pleasures now. Although she still has back and neck pain, she knows she's been granted a second chance at life.

Now, she wonders what to do with it.

"Had fate dealt us a different card, it could have been a lot different for us. I really feel like I can't just take that lightly," Brown said. "There's got to be something that I should get from this."

For now, she has found meaning in spreading the word about a $10 key chain tool called "ResQMe," which is supposed to help people escape cars by shattering side windows and slicing jammed seat belts.

"I feel better just knowing that I have that," she said. "If I have friends in the car, if I have family in the car, you know, and we're in a horrible situation like that, you know, I can do something about it now."

'Survivor remorse'

Brent and Chris Olson were among those hurt the least in the collapse. Besides headaches, they have no physical injuries. Their car, a 1997 Jaguar, is tucked back in their garage -- the only repair a new windshield, because they couldn't scrape off all the bright orange paint from the giant "C27" investigators sprayed on the glass.

On their way to a Twins game to celebrate their 38th anniversary, they had just driven onto the bridge when Brent saw sections of it collapse. A giant wave of falling concrete was headed their way. Brent turned to Chris and said, "I love you."

But then everything slowed. Instead of dropping in a whoosh, the road directly in front of them sank slowly. Then a section behind them sank, too. There they were, among a handful of cars on higher pavement, magically unharmed.

Chris, a nurse, wanted to help. There were no serious injuries on that section of the bridge, and they couldn't see the destruction that fell in front of them. They wanted to help with the injured. But by the time they got to the other side of the river -- getting a ride and walking to where the Red Cross was treating people -- medics had flooded the scene.

They made their way home to White Bear Lake, riding with a friend who had made it to the Twins game.

Now, it's hard for them to know what to make of their fortunate fate.

"It's sort of like survivor remorse," Chris said, sitting in their dining room.

"Here we are, you know, our car's just sat up there nice and pretty," her husband said. "People lost their lives ... back injuries. Oh, my word, they're just horrendous. ... We walked off the thing."We don't know why," Chris said. "We don't know why at all."

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  • Video: Healing the emotional scars

    Saturday September 22, 2007

    Brent and Christine Olson escaped physical harm even though the I-35W bridge collapsed underneath them. They don't know why...

  • Amy Lindholm

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