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I-35W bridge survivors go online to make case for compensation

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 7, 2008 - 11:25 PM

Two survivors of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse presented a website Monday designed to garner support for a state compensation fund for victims.

Kimberly Brown and Mercedes Gorden, both from Minneapolis, have been speaking out on behalf of fellow survivors since the Aug. 1 collapse. Their site -- www.35wbridge.com -- intends to explain the needs of survivors' and victims' families, as well as provide an easy way to contact legislators.

Gorden said the idea came up while they were at a bridge survivor support group.

"We were just kind of brainstorming ... 'What's the best way we can get people to really understand?'" she recalled. "We can be on TV till we go blue in the face but it doesn't necessarily give us the time that we need to explain ourselves."

The site has a link to find state legislators, a sample letter to send them and an "impact map" showing the general areas where victims are from.

It also has a scrolling memorial of photos of the 13 people who died on the bridge, a list of some survivor injuries and a victims' statement.

"We need Minnesota's help to ensure that one year from now, five years from now, and 20 years from now, we are not financially ruined by medical expenses that we cannot foresee - please help," the site says.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, is proposing a state fund to help bridge survivors as well as survivors of future disasters. He has written a bill for the fund, which lawmakers would be able to fill with a specific amount of money whenever they deem it appropriate. It will be considered when the Legislature reconvenes in February.

Some survivors are getting help from money contributed to the Bridge Disaster Fund.

Brown said she hopes their site will answer some critics who have commented on websites about their pleas.

"Some people are like, 'It was a car accident. What's your problem? You should just deal with it.'" Brown said. "They just think that insurance covers everything."

Gorden, whose car crashed into a stone wall at the base of the bridge, suffered massive injuries to her legs and back. She is walking again, sometimes with the help of a walker, and hopes to go back to work part-time soon. She's also preparing for her eighth surgery, she said, this time on some toes, to help her walking.

Although she has health insurance, she and her fiancée are facing thousands in uncovered expenses.

"It's not something I've sat down and crunched numbers yet," she said. "I think I'm still a little bit in denial."

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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