April 18, 2014
The Minneapolis bridge collapse PDF Print E-mail

We are smart enough to realize that our mental health has deteriorated during the last few months. There are finally enough residents here in this apartment house to get up a bridge game and we are using bridge now as sort of a therapy. Fifteen years ago we played bridge three to five times a week and like any sport, the more you play the better you get. That is true up to a certain age; we have reached that age and now bridge is a therapy exercise for our brain. Many times my wife would just rather stay in her recliner, but is a good sport and goes along with me to the bridge table.
This is just leading up to telling you about Liz. She is a friend of Hattie, our across-the-hall neighbor. Liz lives here in the city and comes once each week to visit Hattie, and Christine and I play bridge with them. They aren’t the 4 ½ hour sessions we used to play, they only last two hours, and we are all tired.
Liz had a book written by her grandson, Karge Olson. It was so interesting that I read all of it without putting the book down. Karge, age 28, was driving home from his work in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, and was crossing the Mississippi River at 6:05 pm on the I-135 Minneapolis Bridge, when it collapsed. You readers will remember that happening as I do, but this book tells so much more.
This was unbelievable. A bridge on a major arterial interstate highway in a big American city collapsing. This doesn’t happen in the United States. But it does. Bridges have fallen in the United State before this. Terrorist have attacked us before 9/11.  Hurricanes have flooded and destroyed cities before Katrina.  Rivers have risen to record heights and flooded towns before Cedar Rapids or sudden rains of 14 inches that came down the Colorado mountains flooding and washing away highways and homes. Tornados have destroyed towns before the Oklahoma towns were damaged. These unthinkable catastrophes happen in the United States. One can’t sit back and say these things aren’t supposed to happen here.
Karge’s car was one of the fifty vehicles in the rush hour traffic that dropped about 60 feet into the Mississippi River when the bridge collapsed. Fortunately his car landed upon another car, and miraculously he was able to crawl out and wander around in a dazed condition until he was pulled to safety by the police and volunteer rescue people.
One drowned, 13 were killed, and 145 were injured that day. Karge shares his evolving month-to-month story about how that day changed his life. He described what he has done and been through in the year since the bridge collapsed.
On that August 1, a few minutes before 6 p.m., Karge’s wife Nichole had received a voice mail from him saying that he was on his way home, and she happily told their two-year-old son that Daddy was coming home. Then her cell phone came on again, she heard screaming and lots of noise and then all went quiet. When she heard of the accident on her television she was encouraged to stay home where she could be reached as soon as any information was available. This began a lot of phone calls to the hospitals, not only by his family but by hundreds of families, wanting to know if their relative was in the hospital, in the Mississippi River, or better yet, was he on his way home. It was 8:30, two and a half hours later, while watching the news coverage of the bridge collapse that his wife thought she saw injured Karge staggering among the rubble.
At ten o’clock her father-in-law telephoned the Red Cross Family Center and he received a call back at eleven o’clock, telling that Karge was in Emergency at a nearby hospital. The family was with him within 30 minutes.
Karge knew who he was but asked a dozen times why he was in the hospital, and could he go home to see his two-year-old son. He had to remain in the hospital.
He didn’t get to go home for a week and was told that he suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, three days of Amnesia, Fractured C7 and T1 Vertebrae in his neck, herniated C5 and C6 Vertebrae in neck, fractured clavicle at the shoulder joint, separated shoulder, bruised lungs, swollen spleen, multiple puncture wounds and many broken bones in the left foot.
During the months following the accident Karge tells of his constant headache, many X-Rays, a lot of MRI’s and CT scans and numerous surgeries on his shoulder and foot. He had lost twenty pounds and had many nights with only four hours of sleep.
Karge’s boss immediately made a spreadsheet where employees could sign up to see that a meal was delivered to the Olson house every evening. Karge only had two weeks of vacation time. Many fellow employees gave their vacation time to him so he had time to recuperate.
The purpose of the book was to write the story about what many other victims families were feeling and doing following the bridge collapse. All of the author‘s royalties were donated to the bridge victims families.