Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Unexpected Anxiety

with 2 comments

Back on August 1st of this year, the Twin Cities marked the tenth anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse across the Mississippi River. On Tuesday, I unexpectedly found myself remembering it again, with an unnerving amount of anxiety.

On the way home from work, driving east, past downtown Minneapolis on I94, flashing lights of a state highway patrol car caught my attention as it made its way into the flow of traffic ahead of me. Never a good sign.

Brakelights were soon to follow, quickly filling all four lanes. Eventually, I could see an overhead sign in the distance with information. An accident east of the Huron exit had closed two of the left lanes.

Traffic crawled at a snail’s pace, bumper to bumper. It was a little claustrophobia-inducing, with plenty of large trucks mixed in among the autos.

Then, I and all the many vehicles around me reached the bridge crossing the Mississippi river, just south of the 35W bridge. There we sat.

Way too long, for my comfort.

And there was nothing I could do. It became nerve-wracking. Normally, we whiz over this bridge in an instant, but now the weight of these many vehicles was a static load. The west-bound lanes were freely flowing, and I could feel the bridge shake when that traffic passed across the deck.

We progressed not in feet, but inches. The slower the progress was, the tighter the congestion seemed to get. I allowed for greater space between my bumper and the car ahead of me. Images of what it would be like to suddenly be dropping appeared in my mind.

I did not want to be stopped on that bridge –especially when surrounded by the combined weight of all the other vehicles around me.

Talk about anxiety. Imagine what that would have been like for someone who actually was involved in the 35W collapse in 2007. No thank you.

With great relief, I reached the other side of the bridge without incident. I had successfully avoided a screaming and pounding meltdown, despite an urge that lurked surprisingly close. Conscious breathing does wonders in moments like this.

A short distance ahead, I reached sight of flashing emergency lights and the traffic in the left two lanes began forcing their way, two-at-a-time into my lane. Upon reaching the location of the incident, the scene was rather odd. It’s hard to know how many responders may have already departed, but there were only two patrol cars and officers, plus a highway helper truck managing traffic.

A dramatically squished car with fluids beneath it rested cockeyed in the second lane. That was it. No other debris, no people, no tow truck. I’m guessing there was a lot of activity there while I was stuck in line for the preceding 15 or 20 minutes.

From that point, it was instantly back to highway speeds and an uneventful commute the rest of the way home, during which, I had time to think more about what people experienced 10-years ago when the 35W bridge collapsed.



Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. When I was in college I had to drive through Pt. Pleasant, WV. The bridge collapsed there sometime during my first year. For a couple of years I had to take a ferry, which was rather scary in and of itself. The ferry experience was especially uneasy when I would be on the front and large trucks were on the rear causing the front of the ferry to rise.

    When the new bridge was completed I remember having very similar thoughts to yours though I was never stuck on the bridge.

    Jim Parker

    October 19, 2017 at 8:36 am

    • Not having been stuck in traffic on the bridge before this, I was surprised by my reaction. I guess that seed was quietly germinating in me since the dramatic scenes of 35W so many years ago.
      Hopefully, neither of us will face such calamity in the remainder of our days!


      October 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

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