tragedy on the river

Like everyone else, I think I’m still in shock over the 35W bridge collapse. George was out for a run on the Stone Arch Bridge and actually saw the bridge come down. A cousin of mine drove over the bridge less than half an hour before it collapsed. I found out today that one of the deceased was a parishioner of a priest I was friends with back in graduate school. If the collapse had happened during rush hour next week instead of this, I might very well have been on it myself; I’m taking a class at The Loft (it’s in the Open Book Building on Washington Avenue) next week and the 35W bridge would have been part of my route home. And I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been on that bridge, especially when I lived in south Minneapolis; I was probably on it three to four times a week, and when I worked for the Wellstone campaign that was how I got to work.

George is beginning to have a delayed reaction to the trauma of seeing the bridge fall into the river, and I’m still freaked out because he usually runs along the river road UNDER the bridge–he didn’t Wednesday because it was so hot and he was tired, so he took a shorter route–but he could have been crushed under tons of concrete and steel. Fate is so random. We are all so vulnerable, at every moment, a fact we usually manage to forget, until a sudden unspeakable tragedy occurs and we are forced to face the reality that we aren’t the ones in control after all.

I know we’re all lucky as a community that there weren’t more fatalities, but that must be small comfort to those who lost their loved ones that day. John Donne was right when he wrote “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” We are all the lesser for the loss of those beautiful people–each of them someone’s father, mother, brother, son, daughter, sister–who died on Wednesday, whether we knew them or not.

All of this reminds me of what my mom always said: Life is too short not to say “I love you.” Or in the words of Father Kevin McDonough at a prayer service at St. Olaf earlier this week:

We live only for a short time and are not promised tomorrow. Be grateful for today and be a blessing to somebody else.

Amen.

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