Paul Eickstadtby Matt Peiken, Minnesota Public Radio
Paul Eickstadt drove a delivery truck for Sara Lee Bakery for 14 years. He was just beginning his shift, on his way to Iowa, when the I-35W bridge collapsed. His truck fell forward, burst into flames, and dangled dramatically between two sections of concrete.
Eickstadt, 51, lived in Mounds View. He is survived by a brother and two sisters. One of his oldest friends is also feeling his loss.
Paul Eickstadt and Sue Weatherly were about 7 years old, laughing and running in the muddy swamp around the corner from their homes in Mounds View.
"None of the houses in the area now were here at the time," Weatherly recalls. "So Paul and I, we'd catch tadpoles and guppies and haul them back home in these buckets, and run back down to the swamp and gather up a whole bunch more and bring 'em back home. We were covered in mud. Our parents were just horrified."
Looking back on it, Weatherly figures those days stamped Eickstadt with an enduring love of camping, fishing and hunting.
As children, their parents were best friends and the families were inseparable. The neighborhood has changed in the 40 years since, and so have their lives.
Weatherly and Eickstadt lost touch with one another as adults, then came back into each other's lives, and into their old neighborhood, on the heels of tragedy.
Weatherly's father committed suicide. Soon after, a car accident killed Eickstadt's mother. Neither Eickstadt nor Weatherly had married.
"The two of us spoke a lot about how interesting it was how our lives had turned out, the things that happened, that things don't always turn out like you imagine," Weatherly says.
The two lived two houses away from one another, but didn't see each other much. Eickstadt was often on the road, either driving a delivery truck for Sara Lee Bakery or escaping somewhere in his own pickup.
Eickstadt drove the delivery truck that burst into flames as it dangled between two concrete sections after the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge.
"Whenever his truck is gone, I'm always thinking he's away on a trip," Weatherly says. "I already hate coming home now, because I have to look at his house."