First lady visits scene of Minneapolis bridge collapse
Minneapolis, Minn. — (AP) - First lady Laura Bush on Friday surveyed the wreckage of an interstate bridge that collapsed Wednesday into the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, and praised those who rushed to help.
"There's so many good stories," Bush said of the response. It "lifts people and it really encourages people."
She mentioned the regular people who helped children get safely off a school bus perched on a slanting bridge deck, and the trained rescue drivers who went into the swirling, murky Mississippi River searching for survivors.
Bush spoke on a small hill, yards away from the school bus that has been part of some of the most enduring images of the accident. She could see the steel beams that once support the bridge were snapped like twigs. The street lights that once guided drivers were now toppled, pointing every direction.
More than 65 below, the river flowed around four cars. On one, the silver trunk was the only part above water. A boat with three searchers moved slowly back and forth near the rubble.
Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Robert Allen stood next to her and described the response. He indicated the boat and said divers were still working.
"Divers are below us working, searching vechicles in the water right now," he said.
After visiting the bridge, Bush traveled a few blocks to the office of the Twin Cities chapter of the American Red Cross. There she made a point of shaking hands with Jay Reeves, the group's public safety coordinator.
On Wednesday night, Reeves was driving near the bridge and saw it fall. He rushed toward the wreckage and helped evacuate children from the bus and treated some of the other wounded.
About 25 Red Cross workers and employees gathered outside their office to meet Bush. She praised their work.
"Our country really, really depends on you, depends on you to come in at all the toughest times, whether its 9/11, hurricanes and now this," she said.
Laura Bush's husband, President Bush, was scheduled to visit the scene on Saturday, and he could bring the promise of significant federal aid.
During the presidential visit, Bush was to comfort people, praise the rescue workers and get a briefing on the situation, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
At least five people were killed and 79 injured when the Interstate 35W bridge plummeted more than 60 feet into the river.
Officials estimated that eight other people were missing.
Recovery efforts have been slowed by the river's fast-moving currents and the tons of rubble still in the river.
The eight-lane bridge carried 141,000 vehicles a day, and was undergoing resurfacing repairs when it buckled during the Wednesday evening rush hour.
Dozens of cars plunged into the river, some falling on top of one another.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
- All Things Considered, 08/03/2007, 4:50 p.m.