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Excerpt from Rybak autobiography: After the bridge collapse

Credit: University of Minnesota Press

Credit: University of Minnesota Press

When the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed during rush hour on Aug. 1, 2007, Mayor R.T. Rybak hurried back to Minneapolis from a recruiting event for the Obama campaign in St. Cloud. He worked with little rest through the night and into the next day – surveying the wreckage, meeting with victims and their families, briefing the media. (This excerpt from Rybak’s forthcoming autobiography, “Pothole Confidential” ($24.95), republished with permission from the University of Minnesota Press, describes events on Aug. 3.)

The following morning I was at the airport with Governor Pawlenty and his wife to meet President George Bush. Standing on the tarmac watching Air Force One land, I thought how surreal it was to meet a president for the first time, under these conditions. The president walked down the stairs, greeted the Pawlentys, then came up to me and said:


I couldn’t understand so he repeated:


Finally, a third time, slower, he said, “Your eyes are red. You have to get some sleep.”

“Thank you, Mr. President, I understand that but we kind of have a lot on our hands with …”

“Sleep is really important!”

This wasn’t exactly what I expected to be talking with the president about at this moment but it was nice, and he continued to be exceptionally kind as we got into his helicopter with Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar, as well as members of the congressional delegation.

We got to the bridge and, as we walked, the stories of all the families I had met washed over me. As we turned to see the site, and just beyond the horrible sight of all the destruction, we saw a giant American flag someone had draped over the neighboring Tenth Avenue bridge.

Deeply moved, I turned around with the president and an entourage and began walking away when I noticed a man in a Twins cap yucking it up a few yards away. I thought, “What kind of a jackass would be cracking jokes in a Twins cap at a time like this?” As I got closer the man reached out his hand and warmly introduced himself: “Hi, Karl Rove.”

Before the president left, he and I went into the nearby Red Cross building to meet a couple of the families of victims. I was struck by how warmly and sincerely he connected on a very personal level with those families. I was also struck that I was standing with the political leader I disagreed with on almost every issue and how much that did not matter.



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One comment

  1. 35W bridge collapse was a huge fraud.

    Earth Protector® Communications

    March 31, 2016

    For Immediate Release

    Contact: – Leslie Davis (612-529-5253) – John Westley (305-731-5500)

    John Westley and Leslie Davis, Citizen Plaintiffs (Relators), filed a lawsuit (Qui Tam) in U. S. District Court alleging that employees of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), Hennepin County, and others, made FALSE CLAIMS about the 35W bridge collapse in order to get money from the federal government.

    On August 1, 2007, the 35W bridge, in Minneapolis, Minnesota collapsed killing 13 people and injuring 145 in what was America’s biggest infrastructure disaster.

    The official fairytale for the collapse blamed faulty gusset plates or beams. Plaintiffs allege that those who ordered all traffic to use the bridge’s outside lanes likely are at fault because those lanes were designed, and constructed, for vehicles to enter and exit the bridge, or for emergency stopping. They were NOT constructed for ongoing daily traffic.

    The Qui Tam False Claims Act case alleges that the Plaintiffs and the taxpayers of the United States of America blame the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and their employees, for the collapse because they allowed the four lane 35W bridge to be used for eight lanes thus allowing heavier loads to run day and night on the unsupported outside edges of the bridge.

    Evidence and testimony, as alleged in the complaint, suggests the bridge came apart when a section of roadway broke off, swung down like a flap, and hit the beam extending up from one of the piers anchoring the bridge. (Picture 1 white arrow). The weight of the falling roadway toppled everything in its way as it twisted eighty one feet eastward. (Picture 2 white arrow).

    Government officials allegedly conspired to avoid responsibility, and possible criminal charges, for ordering traffic to the unsupported lanes on the outside edges of the bridge. This appears to have caused the road to give way and led to the collapse of the bridge.

    1. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded the bridge collapsed because the U10 gusset plate failed. (Picture 1 for U10 location) based upon fraudulent and false reports from Defendants Hennepin County and engineering firm Wiss Janney and Elstner.
    NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker told Minnesota Public Radio on August 5, 2007, that movement at the southern end of the bridge resulted from the collapse and was not the cause. That is totally wrong. The southern movement caused the collapse.

    2. Chris Messerly of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm, was lead lawyer for a group of lawyers representing more than 100 victims and they hired Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., a worldwide engineering firm, to identify the cause of the bridge collapse.
    Tomasetti concluded that the cause was not the gusset plates but the failure of nearby beams known as the L9-11 chord. (Picture 1 for L9 location). Messerly told the Star Tribune on March 26, 2009, that Tomasetti engineers viewed the video of the collapse in making their determination but the video camera angle was NOT set to pick up the area of initial collapse. (Picture 2)

    3. Jim O’Connor as lead attorney for Jacobs Engineering in the Hennepin
    County civil case regarding bridge collapse liabilities, retained independent
    investigator Maslon, LLP to develop a computer model regarding the cause of the bridge collapse.

    Maslon’s model refuted the MNDOT and NTSB conclusions of design or gusset plate failure which Plaintiffs allege were contrived to avoid criminal manslaughter liabilities and obtain more than $250,000,000 in federal funding for construction of a new 35W bridge and millions more for related projects.

    No public hearings, or open court proceedings, were held regarding the cause of the 35W bridge collapse, which was the biggest infrastructure catastrophe in American history.

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