Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This is Part III of the topic, please read “The Evening the Bridge Fell” and “After the Bridge Fell,” discussing the 35W Bridge Collapse of August 1, 2007.

Most people are smart enough to run away from an emergency, but there are some of us who run toward it. Not to stupidly gawk or intrusively film it for YouTube but we are compelled to help. There are different types of Emergency or Disaster Responders. Professionals are paid (fire, law enforcement, ambulance) and volunteers are trained (Red Cross, Salvation Army, CERT, and other VOAD groups

A thousand or so people responded after the 35W bridge collapsed until the site was taken over by the Minnesota State Patrol for the reconstruction process. The most vulnerable rescuers are the spontaneous people who decide to help at the spur of the moment. Many are able to help immediately after the disaster occurs. However, sometimes they do the wrong thing, get in the way of the responders or get hurt themselves. Since they don’t have training or post-event support they are also more susceptible to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I always worry about the spontaneous helpers.

The Navy Divers were an impressive professional group. They were requested because the Mississippi River has a fast current, the water was not clear, and debris was dangerous (cement, cars, construction equipment, and steel rebar). They brought in talented divers, amazing crew of support people, and awesome equipment for the task of retrieving cars and occupants. A dive site was set up on the end of the lock & dam and an operations center was stationed in the Red Cross building. It was odd to have military people in the Red Cross office since it is a neutral organization. A family member of mine was stationed on an aircraft carrier during 2007 so I was sought out by Navy personnel because I understand the military perspective. They certainly like Monster Drink!

The donors were wonderful and kindness flowed in from around the world. Donors provided funds to procure needed supplies that are unique to each disaster. Individuals, groups, companies and foundations provided funds to assist responding organizations help the people affected by the disaster. What touched my heart was a family with two little kids (around the age of 7 and 5). The children wanted to donate their piggy bank money. It was very sweet. Their parents knew the value of getting the children involved in philanthropy at a young age. In-kind donations are nice but create a logistical challenge. The stuff has to be checked to make certain that the items are useable and exactly what is needed, sorted, stored and distributed appropriately. It’s much better to donate money unless specific items are requested.

Irritated by the elected and appointed officials whose visits impeded the work of responders. Every time an official visited the disaster site they would come to the Incident Command Center, Navy Divers Operation Center, and the Red Cross Emergency Operations Center. It was good that they went to the site but we had to stop our activities when they dropped by the operation centers. Operations Center is where the activities are coordinated. President George W. Bush came over and we were full stop for several hours because the Secret Service had so many layers of security. Safety of the visitor is necessary but it was at the expense of the victim’s families and survivors. Dignitaries need to be aware of the ripple effect of their visit. They should stay at the disaster site and not mess with the responders or operation centers.

Appalled by the behavior of some of the media. They were ruthlessly seeking stories from people in pain and shock. The national media were the worst behaved. There are many terrific journalists but the bad apples were rotten. I remain lividly angry with the numerous people who did not calculate the bridge’s structural integrity correctly or report concerns. In my opinion, they are all directly to blame for this avoidable tragedy. Their arrogance cost lives, severely injured people physically and emotionally, and cost the community a lot more than money. More than money is needed to heal the wounds. The new 35W bridge is beautiful and strong but at a horrific cost.

I was not prepared to experience PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) myself. As a trained volunteer responder, I was in a situation where I learned a lot of confidential information and it was stressful. I could talk about it with some of my fellow volunteers but no one else because the information was too sensitive. My cats, Momo and Zozo, comforted me at home but they aren’t much for conversation. After the disaster I dealt with PTSD intensely for almost two years and slowly the symptoms reduced. I did have a flair-up watching a Harry Potter film which opened with a footbridge being attacked and people falling into the Thames River. I knew it was all computer graphics but I had a panic attack. I nearly left the movie. Thankfully, I rarely have nightmares or symptoms anymore. Actually, writing this blog has been helpful.

I look forward to visiting the new 35W Remembrance Garden. On the first anniversary I attended the Memorial Service and sat next to a survivor. Her car had bounced into the river and she suffered some injuries. She recognized me and we chatted for a while before the service began. Mid-way through the memorial service an eagle began circling the ceremony. I pointed it out to her and the people nearby; soon almost everyone was watching the eagle circle. She whispered to me that as she was dragging herself onto the bridge deck an eagle buzzed a few feet above her head. She said that several eagles immediately started zooming over the area. Her words sent a tingle down my spine. My part-Native American grandfather taught me that eagles sometimes come to help escort a human's soul to the next experience. I began to cry because the eagle overhead held a huge spiritual meaning to me. The service was loud with lots of people so there would be no reason for an eagle to investigate since they don’t really like human activity. The eagle was there for the thirteen souls who moved on and all the souls affected by this disaster.

On eagles wings…
© 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011


This is Part II of the topic, please read “The Evening the Bridge Fell,” since it recounts the night of August 1, 2007.

The Interstate 35W bridge was literally a block east of the American Red Cross, Minneapolis Area Chapter’s office. I have been a Red Cross Disaster volunteer for over ten years ( A trained volunteer never self-deploys, aka don’t just show up on the scene. If you aren’t needed, you just get in the way. Plus, the office was in the disaster response zone (generally a block or two surrounding a disaster site) so I could not just drive over. After I got in touch with my friends, I tried contacting the Red Cross but the phone lines were jammed due to too many calls. I wanted to help but I knew enough to remain at home.

Eventually, I spoke with Disaster Services personnel and was scheduled to assist. My first shift was a couple days after the bridge fell. I was stalled at the perimeter because First Lady Laura Bush was visiting and security was tight. After she and her entourage departed, I made my way to the Red Cross office. The set up was quite unusual for a disaster. The first floor of the Red Cross building had been converted into a feeding center for responders and the Red Cross Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was operating out of the building. During a “typical” disaster, the EOC and feeding centers are not on Red Cross property. It causes logistical challenges and interferes with the work of the regular staff (volunteers and employees) that doesn’t focus on disaster. Prepare yourself, others and pets for disaster today and have details.

The parking lot of the next-door building was transformed into the Incident Command Center. The Minneapolis Police were in charge but worked in cooperation with the MN Department of Transportation, MN State Patrol, Hennepin County Sheriff's Department, and other city, county and state officials. Federal level response teams from the Transportation Safety Administration, Pollution Control Agency, FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies were present. Hundreds of professional people involved. If you’d like to learn more about the Incident Command System, you can take free on-line courses at for independent study classes.

Thankfully, my boss at the time let me use vacation time. I had to go into the office every other day to respond to correspondence, email and voicemail but it was a slow couple weeks and nothing dire was occurring. She did question my loyalty; did I care more about work or the disaster? What a question. Of course work was number one but if I could fit in responding to a disaster it would boost my morale. Lots of people take time off to tend to sick spouses or kids, I have neither, so I help at disasters. I shouldn’t be discriminated against because I don’t have a hubby or children.

Due to confidentiality I shall not discuss the people I helped directly. It would be rude and mean to write about their challenges. The nature of disaster is harsh. Once the shock begins to ebb the fear-anger sets in and every person reacts differently. Some people turn their pain inward and others outward. I’ve seen people get sick or else laugh. It is like the grief process, you have to work through the stages and everybody goes at a different rate. I was glad that I could help the survivors and the families of the victims during the first weeks after the tragedy.

I did get close to the bridge and it was unsettling to see the huge steel girders twisted like paper clips. Three dimensions with smell and sound (the structure would rumble a bit as it settled) cannot compare with a pale two-dimensional image from television. The bridge deck fell more than 100 feet (five stories). It must have been utterly terrifying to experience or watch it occur. I continue to be unnerved viewing the videotape. It is amazing that more people did not die or get worse injuries. Wikipedia provides a good overview of this awful event.

Disasters are local but each one reaches around the world.
© 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011


The first day of August 2007 was a beautiful summer Wednesday in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. I had just turned off the television news to read the Star Tribune newspaper at about 6pm. The phone rang, I answered and heard, “Praise the Lord you are home,” it was my parents. What? My dad said that a bridge had fallen into the river and that I should turn on the tv. I obliged and nearly swooned. The conversation ended because I had to make contact with my friends. After numerous frantic calls, I eased my soul that they were all accounted for and fine. I connected with Allie as she walked into her home. She was going to drive over the 35W bridge that night but due to the slow traffic she took another bridge. That decision may have saved her life. Lots of people called or emailed me to make certain that I was okay.

The 35W interstate bridge had spanned the Mississippi River for many years. I knew this bridge. A good friend of mine parked his car under the structure while we attended college at the University of Minnesota during the 1980s. I remember one journey to his car when we gasped as a chunk of cement smashed the hood of another student’s auto. There were some spots under the deck where no one parked because the cement was always crumbling. During the early 2000s, I worked in a building near the bridge for a couple years and spent many hours gazing at its landscape. Like many others, I traveled across it hundreds of times.

It was shocking but not a surprise that the bridge fell. The month before it plunged into the river I had driven across the bridge and nearly threw up. I had a horrible feeling and I decided not to drive on it again. I would hop off 35W and drive over the 10th Avenue Bridge (which is a few blocks to the east) and then get back onto 35W, just to avoid the bridge. I have learned to listen to my intuition. I told my friends to avoid the bridge but they scoffed at me.

An acquaintance of mine, Daniel, was a few cars away from being on the bridge that night. Traffic was slowed to a crawl when suddenly it stopped and dust rose up in front of his car. He rolled down his window when someone came running by screaming that they needed to get out of there. He thought it was a major accident. He managed to turn his car around and depart via an entrance ramp. That is when he saw that the bridge was gone. He entered a state of fugue and drove home. He moved out of his shock a few hours later and realized that he was nearly a victim. Daniel didn’t talk about this incident until last year. He knew that I spent many days at the site but he never discussed his experience. If he had left work a few minutes earlier, he may have joined the list of victims or survivors.

Thirteen people died that night, dozens were seriously injured, multitudes were harmed in a minor way and a few people didn’t get physically hurt at all (for a total of almost 150). Many have suffered from the psychological impact of the awful event. They were the people directly affected by the failure of the bridge structure. So many near misses, such as a busload of kids that could have plunged into the river or a paddleboat loaded with passengers that could have been under the bridge. It could have been so much worse but it’s a disaster for the people who died and survived. Every disaster has ripple effects to the family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and other people that the victim/survivor knows. Responders (professional, volunteer and spontaneous) are deeply affected by what they encounter, too. Even people with no direct connection to the victims or survivors can feel empathy and compassion.

Remember them all. will be opening soon about a half mile upstream of the site.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Torrential rain on Friday and early Saturday morning, July 16th caused a small lake to form in my basement. I discovered it Saturday morning when Tillie, the younger cat, placed her wet paws on my arm. The cats sleep in the basement at night. I went downstairs to discover about three-quarters inch of water covering about half the basement. It had seeped in overnight. The non-joy of a nearly 100 year old house. This Old House leaks!

Squeegee to the rescue. I pushed the water towards the floor drain and mopped up the rest. I set the three fans and the dehumidifier timers to 24 hours, 6 on and two off, to make certain that at least two were running at all times. Usually, this works well. The basement dries out in a day and I keep the fans running for an extra couple days just to get out any residual moisture. Alas, that is no the case this year. Water keeps seeping via the floor and bottom of the walls.

The ground is so profoundly saturated that the water is seeking any route. The Twin Cities had a lot of rain in the fall, higher than average amount of snow during the winter, and a fairly wet spring. The basement is a bog. Not enough to squeegee but the mop doesn’t pick up all the moisture. The fans and dehumidifier are humming but they don’t seem to make much of a dent. Everything feels wet. Mold has begun to grow on the walls. I hate to use bleach but I’ve had to spray the growth.

I moved the cat food upstairs and they don’t have to go into the basement at night. I have a large fan in the window on the second floor, which I turn on at night to bring air to cool the house. This may not be wise when the humidity is above 70 degrees because I think that I may have pulled in some moisture by mistake. I keep a couple windows open a bit on first floor so that the air will cycle through the basement and up the dirty clothes shaft that runs from the second floor into the basement. Hopefully, I have drawn out more moisture that I have brought in.

I need the fan on to sleep. I don’t have air conditioning and the fan is essential with ice packs. I don’t like temperatures about 80 degrees with humidity. I am miserable right now because the heat index has been near or over 100 degrees for the past three days and will continue for several more. I have been seeking reasons to retreat to air conditioning, going out for lunch, visiting the library or watching a movie. I would not do well in a jungle.

When I bought the house nine years ago the previous owner stated that the basement leaked after a hard rain. The next summer I learned that was the truth. The following years I landscaped the front yard to have higher soil near the house and slope it away, installed new gutters, and sealed the cracks in the backyard sidewalk that was adjacent to the house. There has been very little seepage since that time, and generally it was only after a torrential rainfall of four or more inches.

I need to install a trench drain with a septic pump to draw out moisture and then seal the walls and floor against the damp. I do not have the funds for such activities right now. Unemployment is really quite a pain when one’s home needs repair. I have several tasks, which need fixing, as well as the car, but I can’t afford the cost. Very disheartening.

Dry out the basement and get me a job.
© 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011


I like to drink tea (with the exception of American-grade Lipton and Earl Grey). However, the Tea Party appalls me. Tea Party members view compromise as a “bad word.” They see inflexibility and intractability as strength. They distain government so it’s ironic that they sought elected office. They are elected anarchists. Several have stated that they wish to dismantle government, which is libertarianism-anarchy. They have demonstrated themselves to be piranhas that feed on anyone deemed “unpure.” Does any relationship work without compromise, flexibility, and the ability to change one's mind?

“Ignorance and arrogance is a dangerous combination,” Governor Mark Dayton stated on July 14th, 2011 at the Humphrey Forum when he announced willingness to compromise on the budget and end the State of Minnesota Shutdown. He had to swallow bitter tea to make progress to end the shutdown. This crisis isn’t over until the bills are signed. I place at least two-thirds of the blame with the ignorant and arrogant Tea Party strangling the moderate Republicans and manipulating everyone into a horrible position. No one wins; all the citizens of the State of Minnesota lose because of a few Tea-pots.

Democracy is of, by, and for the people. Government is designed to represent the people against the corrupt, rich, and violent. An unfair tax system that favors the financially blessed only lines the pockets of the uber wealthy. The proposed budget for the State of Minnesota continues this unfair system. I wish that Governor Dayton’s approach would have been adopted but the Tea Party poisoned the negotiations. Too many innocent Minnesotans in the lower 98% of income will have to pay an awful price to benefit the upper 2%. Note: I know some folks in the upper 2% and they donate a lot but not all their peers do.

Pat Buchanan orchestrated the takeover and ruination of the Reform Party, which had been formed by Ross Perot. I was a member of that party because I don’t quite fit in the other two. The Independence Party tried to rise out of the ashes of the Reform Party but it never caught hold. This is most unfortunate because the Reform-Independence Party was moderate. I wish that it had become a viable third party instead of the Tea-idiots.

On the national level, the Tea Party is manipulating the Debt Limit Ceiling discussion. They have backed the Republican Party into an untenable position. The consequences could be catastrophic. I urge all American citizens to contact their Congressional Senators and Representative to tell them to get the ceiling raised ASAP.

Stop the Shutdown, but Smartly!
© 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Books that have the characters travel, should include a map. Rating of five worms is perfection!

Under Fishbone Clouds by Sam Meekings Four and a half worms
Beautiful language and an interesting perspective. Story begins rather convolutedly and I almost stopped reading it. Exquisitely descriptive of the landscape and very insightful regarding the internal journey of the characters. Needed to continue the saga to the female lead’s end. Women are systematically oppressed and harsh political change is the only way their status is elevated. I wish that I knew more about Chinese mythology, history and geography, it would have added to understanding this complicated book and it needed a map because modern maps are useless.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis Three worms
You have to pay attention or you will get confused. The story line is logical but a bit complex. Unfortunately, the vernacular is Americanized. Very fun read, when attentive. States the title too frequently. Could use a map to show the area discussed.

Midnight and the Meaning of Love by Sister Souljah Two and a half worms
Well written but can be viewed two ways. It could be a love story about passion and commitment. Alternatively, it could be an egotistical misogynistic sex-driven teenager with paranoia and a hero complex. Oppression of women with power, control and polygamy is never about protection or demographics.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen Two and a half worms
Starts well and the chapter regarding road rage is exceptional. Cumbersome at times interspersed with bits of brilliance. Too much emphasis on the son’s bodily secretions and a disgusting description of retrieving a ring. Equal time was needed with the daughter but her story was mostly ignored. The ending was a bit too tidy.

Busy Body by M.C. Beaton Two worms
A few funny bits drowned by boring bits. Story is shorthanded with lots of time gaps and not enough information. This is the umpteenth book written about the character. Alas, a formulistic writer who seems to have lost interest in the characters. Maybe some of the earlier books are livelier.

Personal Notes:
I strive to keep these reviews brief. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot line if you choose to read the book. I despise it when reviewers ruin the ending of a book. I try to point out the strengths of the book as well as areas of improvement. It takes a lot of moxie to get published and I hope that they all keep writing.

Peruse previous reviews posted on June 6th, May 9th, April 10th, February 17th, 2011 and September 14th, 2010. Please join the followers of this blog, link on Facebook and Twitter. I welcome suggestions of books to read which are available in the library system (MELSA in the Twin Cities, MN area). I try to post a new review every month or so.

Read to a child every day (or to another adult).
© 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011


Lighting up the sky with lovely hues. I adore watching the beautiful forms float aloft. However, I despise the violent percussive boom of the explosion. It always makes me jump. I wear earplugs but the shock wave still hits me. The choking smell of the gunpowder smoke isn’t pleasant when you sit downwind. I feel exhausted after watching a fireworks show and my neck hurts.

I really hate it when civilians (my neighbors) blow off fireworks in their yard or on the street. One year the fools set fire to my boulevard grass because the weather was so dry. I had just turned onto our road when I saw the fire sweep across the boulevard and my neighbor run to stomp on it. I drove into my garage, yelled at him and used the hose to wash down the grass. It took several weeks for the grass to grow back. Little firecrackers blast off at all hours of the night for several days before the 4th of July and afterwards. Wakes me up when I am sleeping and my fan sucks in the smoke. When I was a kid the only fireworks I liked were the sparklers because they made a sizzling sound. Little did I know that they burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not a fan of watching parades. Perhaps I’ve marched in too many. The only exception is the nighttime Minneapolis Aquatennial Parade. I arrive early and sit with my back to the sun or in a shady location. Parades can be enjoyable when you go with someone or a group and pack a meal. The temperatures cool down and it’s interesting to watch the floats with lights. I have marched in all types of weather and been silly enough to attend evening parades during the winter (St. Paul Winter Carnival and Minneapolis Holidazzle). Watching a parade on tv is torture.

I’d much rather celebrate Independence Day by attending a barbeque with friends. It is blissful when the weather is 75-80 degrees with low humidity and a slight breeze. Few or no bugs make the event even better. I just want to chat with people I like, relax and watch nature. Summer is brief in Minnesota, so it’s important to enjoy every day.

Happy 4th!
© 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011


Sex happens and sometimes the result is pregnancy. Happiness for the people who want a baby. What occurs when the woman or family can’t raise the child?

Adoption is a loving option. It is difficult but courageous when the woman can place the child with an individual or couple who is able to provide as a parent(s). Ideally, the father of the child will be involved in this decision, too. Open adoptions are wonderful. A family member of mine matched her child with an open arrangement (when she was 16) and is still in communication with him. She is informed of his status, visits on occasion, and he knows that she cares about him. His biological dad is completely out of the picture. She married someone else and has other children. They know their older half-brother lives with another family but he is a part of their life.

Abortions have been occurring for thousands of years. For myriad reasons, the woman was not able to have the child. Sometimes the abortion is forced upon her, which is a crime. Illegal abortions are not good for anyone. Tragically, too many women have died or been sterilized in the process of seeking an illegal abortion.

Sometimes abortion is the only option. There can be medical reasons why the pregnancy cannot continue. No woman should die because she isn’t able to obtain an abortion. Rape and incest are other valid reasons for an abortion. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could haunt her for years or the rest of her life. The PTSD would be significantly increased if she has to carry a child that was not conceived out of love. The child could be harmed after it’s born because it was not wanted. She could inadvertently take out her anger on other children in the family.

There are many other reasons why a child cannot be born. Maybe there are already several children and the family cannot handle one more. It is a personal decision. Who has the right to say what is correct and what isn’t? I have never met anyone who blissfully decided to obtain an abortion. It is a heart-wrenching decision. It is absurd to think that abortions occur out of vanity.

What will occur if abortion becomes illegal again in the United States? Women will die seeking an illegal abortion; children will join a family and not be loved or wanted; families will have more financial problems because they have more children; etc, etc, etc. There are consequences for every action. Meanwhile, cutting pregnancy prevention services to the poor (such as slashing Planned Parenthood’s budget), sex education and ending federally funded abortion will only drive the US into more dire straits.

The people who want to end abortion (aka pro-life or anti-choice) need to:
* prevent pregnancies (abstinence does not work) by providing free/low cost birth control to both genders, starting at puberty;
* provide factual sex education to all pre-puberty kids, emphasizing birth control and “safer” sex practices;
* researchers need to find more options for both genders to use easy and cheap birth control;
* streamline the process for adoption, especially older children;
* aid all the children who will be abused and neglected because they are not wanted;
* improve education for all children and make sure that all adults have at least a GED; and,
* provide services for poor families with children (welfare, food, medical care, housing, etc).

BE PRO-PREVENTION, provide free birth control!
© 2011