A survivor's letter

  • October 11, 2007 - 7:48 PM

Here is the text of the letter that bridge collapse survivor Kimberly Brown sent to members of the state Senate on Thursday.

Dear Legislators:

Two months and 11 days after the 35W bridge fell, why have no legislators stood up and said, "let's take care of the survivors"?

Why does the State of Minnesota have $27 million to reward a contractor to build a bridge with an emphasis on speed, but zero dollars for the survivors? Instead, survivors must navigate the bureaucracy of a nonprofit system that is run on the grace of Minnesotans' generosity.

Why do Minnesota politicians pat themselves on the backs, saying that the disaster wasn't as bad as it could have been, when this bridge should never have fallen in the first place?

Why does Minnesota put hundreds of millions of dollars into sports stadiums, but months after the disaster, the survivors are left to fend for themselves? Why have the state or federal government -- who was responsible for the bridge -- given $0 dollars to help victims recover?

Instead, I listen each week to people's pain, as they worry about how to make it from day to day. I've been going to the Bridge Collapse Survivor's support group every week since August 24th.

Why am I hearing, "My spouse can't work, we have no money coming in."We don't know how we are going to pay our mortgage."I got a medical bill for forty grand; that's the tip of the iceberg."I lost my job."I can't drive myself to doctor appointments because I'm hurt."We need to hire a housekeeper because I can't do the things I used to."My spouse has become my caretaker."I can' t work."My spouse can't work."We have no money coming in." I can't sleep."I jump at the smallest noises."I'm always sad."Our money is gone."We've been forgotten."

I want to hear, "My buddy died, but MN is taking care of me."My medical expenses are covered, I don't have to worry about them."My job is protected."My mortgage is paid."A caretaker is provided."Transportation is provided."I have help with day to day living."I can see any mental health professional."

I want to hear, "I paid my taxes."It was everyone's bridge."It doesn't come out of my pocket."I can just focus on getting better."

Before you build that Memorial below the bridge, where none of us want to go, how about someone take care of us first? How about someone ask us what we want?

United Way agencies -- such as the Red Cross, United Way 2-1-1, and the Salvation Army, which are run by donations and volunteers, should not be the only one to bear the responsibility of helping those who survived.

Survivors have been frustrated and angry with the red tape and lack of response, and who can blame them. Yet, I maintain that our anger is misplaced -- where is the State of Minnesota and federal government's culpability? Why is a nonprofit organization the only agency helping victims? This isn't even their bridge. If Minnesota won't bear some culpability for this failure, how about some of that $27 million that Minnesota was willing to give away be established as a fund for survivor recovery, and thereby say, "We just want to take care of you."

I want these innocent people to have all of their medical, all of their insurance, all of their mortgages, all of their lost wages, all of their mental health counseling taken care of by the entities that were in charge, or partially in charge, of that bridge. And not just today, but months and years from now.

It's time to slow down and back up. Your new bridge is going up too fast. You still have a huge mess from the old one. Fix this.


Kimberly J. Brown

Bridge Survivor

Minneapolis Resident

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