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Continued: Pieces of I-35W bridge helps survivors, victims' families to move on

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 29, 2013 - 5:34 AM

The Olsons received the smallest payout, but the 2007 bridge tragedy and its emotional fallout became one of the greatest challenges of their lives, along with the prostate cancer that Brent successfully fought and the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease given to Chris Olson.

They had been on the way to see the Twins game on the eve of their 38th wedding anniversary when Chris Olson, gazing at the lock and dam on the Mississippi, felt the bridge tremble.

“Is it an earthquake?” she asked.

“No, the bridge is falling,” her husband said, watching one section fall and then another. Then a big ramp on the north bank flipped.

“It collapsed coming toward us,” Brent Olson said, “and when the section in front of us went, I said, ‘I love you,” and waited thinking, ‘We’re next.’ ”

The section behind them fell, too, leaving them stranded high above the Mississippi River in their 1997 green Jaguar — on one section that still stood.

“We gotta get out,” Brent Olson said.

Chris Olson got out of the car and stood up, only to be hit with a searing cloud of rolling dust that blistered her chest and blinded her.

They slid down a steep hunk of bridge and made their way to help.

That night, they went home to White Bear Lake and sat on their couch, crying and hugging all night.

Amid their worst year, however, came a bright spot: Their first granddaughter was born, and she’s since been followed by a second.

The Olsons, who recently celebrated their 44th anniversary, gathered up small pieces of the bridge, intended for their granddaughters.

And then, Brent Olson tucked into his trunk a flat piece of steel about the size of a laptop, saying he would mount on it a photo of their green Jaguar as it remained parked for two months on the section that remained standing.

He had bided his time patiently for years, as the litigation was resolved, to finally collect some steel.

“I waited,” he said, “because I wanted to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten.”

 

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750

 

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  • Dave Dahl, right, and his son David, who survived the I-35W bridge collapse with his mom and sister, waited for help to move a large piece of steel they were taking.

  • 35-W bridge collapse survivors Chris and Brent Olson looked over remnants of the bridge in the MnDOT storage facility in Oakdale.

  • Andrew Hausmann, center, whose father was killed in the collapse, carried out a large piece of steel with the help of attorneys Bill Harper, left, and Dan Boerigter. Officials are expecting to give away 121 tons of steel after a law cleared the way to give the state-owned property to those directly affected.

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