Friday, August 3, 2007

I 35W Bridge Collapse-A Question

Given all that has been & will continue to be written about the I-35W bridge collapsing in Minneapolis—from a Hong Kong paper’s front page to a President Bush speech*—I was going to try to avoid writing about it. Alas, I could not. I know I’ve promised this before, but I will try to be brief here, as I don’t want to repeat everything that one can read elsewhere. My only addition to the conversation follows.

From Merriam-Webster online dictionary for the entry "miracle":
1 : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
2 : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

From The New York Times Friday, August 3:
“Its one of those things,” said Anthony Wagner… “Five seconds, 10 seconds earlier, they would’ve been in the river. I think a miracle happened.”

The “they” he is speaking of are the passengers—61 in total, many of them children—on the school bus that narrowly missed falling into the river & instead came to rest upright on a felled portion of the bridge apparently against the guardrail (see picture here), thus leaving all passengers alive, & only some injured.

Let me preface the following by saying that I am extremely glad that this school bus landed where it did, & I have been struck many times over these last days since this tragedy happened by the fact that only four people have been reported dead thus far. Still, those are four people & sadly enough only more will be announced in days to come.

Now while Mr. Wagner may have been referring to the second definition of “miracle,” something gives me the feeling that he was invoking its more common usage—the first definition. & even if he wasn’t, the word will still conjure up ideas of a divine presence to the listener, or, in this case, the reader.

I, like many people from this area, have heard a number of stories of near-misses & fortunate detours & delays—a friend who had to turn around to change her laundry; a relative, at the time, frustratingly delayed. If you are from the Twin Cities you more than likely have a story like this. & these stories make us cherish those who could have been on that bridge, who were even supposed to be on that bridge when it fell, even more than the average person may look to loved ones when something as random & tragic as this event takes place.

In times like these when people speak of survivors who could have very easily not been so, they always seem to say the same thing—“a miracle” has taken place. I am unimaginably glad that no one close to me has been counted among the dead. But to say that this is a “miracle” implies that some people were plucked by the hand of the Almighty, while He let others plummet to the river below. To call the fact that the school bus was only seconds from a much worse fate a “miracle” says that those lives are more important than the ones who were not so lucky—let me emphasize that word, lucky. What did the four pronounced dead & the others to come do to not be saved, to deserve to be tossed into the Mississippi?


They happened to be in a place when their world, what they knew of it at that moment, literally fell apart. If the school bus had been taking up space on the bridge then possibly one or more of those now dead would still be alive. Would that be any less of a miracle than still having those children with us? Let's ask their loved ones & see if there's consensus.

*a response to that inappropriate speech.


Dustin said...

So one thing I still don't understand about the bridge collapse is what kind of a school bus holds 61 kids? Is there an investigation going on as to why there were so many kids on that bus and/or where the bus driver was taking them? When I was a kid there would be like 30 of us on a bus at a time, of course, with no seat belts....

Dustin said...

Oh yeah, I just posted a transcript of Bush's speech that I refer to in the post you've linked in your post on the bridge. The link on this post should take you to it as well...

Zach Wade said...

David, I couldn't agree more about erroneous attributability in the aforementioned scenario or the innumerable others existing everyday in our society. "THANK YOU, JESUS!," bellowed Rams quarterback Kurt Warner while holding aloft the Super Bowl Trophy. Yeah, Kurt, Jesus afforded you good fortune that day, for whatever reason, probably because he loves you so. And obviously, for the Tennessee Titans, Jesus just wasn't on the morning train. It makes sense. I wonder what they did to deserve it though. And I sure as shit hope whatever it was didn't get back to Santa Claus.

About Me

David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (, an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine ( His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post,, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.

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