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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