Hushed silence

A Week and two days has passed now and today the remains of three of the missing are recovered. Navy and FBI divers are helping out. So Dylan and Kinzy and I, having an errand in Minneapolis, cross the river on the Third Avenue Bridge and make our way to Second Street just north of the collapse site. The crowds are not what they have been. Still, there are thousands. The Minneapolis Parks & Rec department has installed a dozen biffy’s. Trash cans overflow. The already dry grass is pounded into dust like the midway at a circus or the Minnesota State Fair. The police peremiter is established. City police officers and county sheriff’s deputies are standing under little white tents. Some workers at a steel milling plant watch us impassively from a large doorway as we come and go.

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James Hill’s Stone Arch Bridge, a grand curving railroad entrance to downtown Minneapolis now is a pedestrian and bike way. It has a spectacular view of downtown Minneapolis and the St. Anthony Falls, now nearly dried up in the drought. But all eyes are turned downriver. What we can see is the 10th Avenue Bridge. It is quite beautiful and it should be a delight to behold except that we’re not supposed to be able to see it.

THE DISASTER SITE PHENOMENA is as described in the news: large crowd of people so quiet I can hear the wind blowing across the river and the faint sound of water going over the falls. Reminds me of visiting the Alamo in San Antonio: for Texans a place so revered they remove their 10-gallon hats upon entering. But here is something not observed in the news: these visitors are middle to upper middle class types. Minnesota’s Alamo for people who drive cars back and forth to the suburbs.

Someone has mounted two U.S. flags above the downriver side of the bridge. A lefty bicyclist crossing toward Minneapolis breaks the silence by shouting: “What’s patriotic about a bridge collapsing?”

I wonder what people make of all of this mess as we walk down Second Street to the point at which the freeway crosses on approach to the river. Concrete sections are aimed up and aimed down. Vehicles glued crazily to them as though the drivers set their parking brake whilst exiting to run for their lives. One car turned upside down onto another. Dylan notices the giant numbers that have been spraypainted on the sides by rescuers. We stand across the street and Dylan says: “This is close enough.” He can see all he wants to see.

Is there any lesson for wealth-bearing Americans at this place? We are viewing mayhem that is but a fraction of one day’s worth of death and destruction in Iraq. Would that country have been of such great interest to our Texan president were it not for its vast oil reserves? Here on our own soil we get a taste of what our oil-based transportation economy is doing to us. We drive our cars there to have the experience. Do we also experience the irony?

The lefty guy on the bicycle and dozens like him whiz across the Stone Arch Bridge on their way home from work, weaving around gaping members of the throng and barely glancing over their shoulders. This is not their bridge that has collapsed. Not their disaster. Many of these folks will be riding to work in the dead of winter while automobile commuters wait in traffic to follow MinnDOT’s convoluted detour.

Ad hoc memorial

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