Jena Garfield had seen pictures of the collapsed Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge in the newspapers and on TV. But she had to see the scene for herself.
"This is crazy; I can't believe this," said Garfield, a nanny from White Bear Lake as she stood gazing at the slabs of concrete sticking above the Mississippi River waterline and heaps of twisted metal and steel on the shoreline. "I can't imagine the chaos or even the cars in the water. I had to see it. This just makes it real."
Garfield and the kids she looks after - Tess Natterstad, 11, Hunter Natterstad, 9, and Elvis Natterstad, 7 - gazed at the destruction from the Dinkytown Bicycle Connection, a bicycle and pedestrian bridge near the site that had been closed since the freeway bridge came crashing down Aug. 1 killing 13 people and injuring scores of others.
The pedestrian bridge connecting the University of Minnesota's East and West banks opened to the public at noon Tuesday.
Within the first hour of its opening, several people came to view the site. Some took photographs with their cell phones or cameras. Others simply cast a stunned eye over the somber scene, pondering just how something of this magnitude could have happened.
"We feel safe from engineering failures and terrorism, this should not happen here," said Andrew Seffrood, 33, a University of Minnesota employee who used his lunch hour to peer at the wreckage. "It's breathtaking and emotional. People are going to come here just to have some resolution."
Bicyclists Jim and Susan LeClair of northeast Minneapolis stopped by for a moment of silence and pay their respects to the victims.
The Dinkytown Bicycle Connection, also known as Bridge 9, affords visitors the opportunity to see first-hand the remains of the bridge that went down Aug. 1 and to pay respects to the 13 victims.
"I just hope they didn't suffer," said Jim LeClair.
People can access the bridge only from the West Bank of the University of Minnesota. Construction on the East Bank will prohibit access from there.
Additionally, through traffic will not be allowed and police are monitoring the site to ensure safety and to limit the number of people on the bridge should large crowds converge at any given time, a city of Minneapolis news release said.
Parking in the residential area is not available, so those visiting the site should plan to walk or bike to the site. The nearest public parking is at the Seven Corners ramp on Washington Avenue.
Bridge 9 has been closed since Aug. 1, but was open for a brief time Aug. 15 before officials shut it down as recovery efforts continued. Those efforts culminated Monday night when the remains of the 13th and last victim, Greg Jolstad, were pulled from the Mississippi River.