To our friends, neighbors, and family…

The literary fight club members would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the friends, neighbors, and families of those who were involved in last night’s collapse of the St. Anthony Bridge in Minneapolis, MN – the place we call home.

While we speculate as to what caused this tradegy and try to figure out how it could have been prevented – let’s take a second to remember how lucky we all are to be alive and to have the good fortune to live in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

While you let that thought soak in… take a few minutes to read the comments from NY Times readers on the day’s events.  Enjoy today.

5 Responses to “To our friends, neighbors, and family…”

  1. 1 Dave K. August 6, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    It may be time (and appropriate) to consider a book that explores the frailty of our infrastructure. Stephen Flynn was interviewed by CNN recently following the 35W bridge collapse, and is a leading expert on the state of our country’s infrastructure.

    In his book, The Edge of Disaster, he explores:

    – Why do we remain unprepared for the next terrorist attack or natural disaster?
    – Where are we most vulnerable?
    – How have we allowed our government to be so negligent?
    – Who will keep you and your family safe?
    – Is America living on borrowed time?
    – How can we become a more resilient nation?

    Even putting aside the terrorism possibilities and focusing on natural and man-made disasters, an eerily prophetic passage tells us:

    “Our growing exposure to man-made and natural perils is largely rooted in our own negligence, as we take for granted the infrastructure handed down to us by earlier generations. Once the envy of the world, this infrastructure is now crumbling.”

    A large part of me feels as though we owe it to ourselves and our fallen fellow Minnesotans to discuss this…

  2. 2 Dave K. August 6, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Stephen Flynn’s ‘Expert Op-Ed’ piece for Popular Mechanics the day after the Mpls bridge collapse:

    It will take time to determine why the Interstate 35 bridge collapsed, so tragically, during the height of a Minneapolis rush hour on Wednesday night. But investigators will likely find that two factors contributed to its failure: age and heavy use. Bridge 9340 was constructed in 1967, 11 years after the launch of the Eisenhower Interstate System. Until it plunged into the Mississippi River, it served as a transportation lifeline for the growing Twin Cities population, carrying across its 14 spans many of the SUVs, cars and trucks that accounted for the 42 percent rise in Minnesota’s vehicle traffic from 1990 to 2003.

    Age and heavy use are by no means isolated conditions. According to a report card released in 2005 by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 160,570 bridges, or just over one-quarter of the nation’s 590,750-bridge inventory, were rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The nation’s bridges are being called upon to serve a population that has grown from 200 million to over 300 million since the time the first vehicles rolled across the I-35W bridge. Predictably that has translated into lots more cars. American commuters now spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, at a cost to the economy of $63.2 billion a year.

    It is not just roads and bridges that are being stressed to the breaking point. Two weeks ago New Yorkers were scrambling for cover after a giant plume of 200-plus-degree steam and debris shot out of the street and into the air. The mayhem was caused by the explosion of a steam pipe, installed underground in 1924 to heat office buildings near Grand Central station. In January 2007, Kentuckians and Tennesseans woke up to the news that the water level of the largest man-made reservoir east of the Mississippi would have to be dropped by 10 ft. as an emergency measure. The Army Corps of Engineers feared that if it didn’t immediately reduce the pressure on the 57-year-old Wolf Creek Dam, it might fail, sending a wall of water downstream that would inundate communities all along the Cumberland River, including downtown Nashville.

    The fact is that Americans have been squandering the infrastructure legacy bequeathed to us by earlier generations. Like the spoiled offspring of well-off parents, we behave as though we have no idea what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives. Our electricity comes to us via a decades-old system of power generators, transformers and transmission lines—a system that has utility executives holding their collective breath on every hot day in July and August. We once had a transportation system that was the envy of the world. Now we are better known for our congested highways, second-rate ports, third-rate passenger trains and a primitive air traffic control system. Many of the great public works projects of the 20th century—dams and canal locks, bridges and tunnels, aquifers and aqueducts, and even the Eisenhower interstate highway system—are at or beyond their designed life span.

    In the end, investigators may find that there are unique and extraordinary reasons why the I-35W bridge failed. But the graphic images of buckled pavement, stranded vehicles, twisted girders and heroic rescuers are a reminder that infrastructure cannot be taken for granted. The blind eye that taxpayers and our elected officials have been turning to the imperative of maintaining and upgrading the critical foundations that underpin our lives is irrational and reckless.

    America’s gross domestic product in 2006 was $13.2 trillion—we can afford to have world-class infrastructure. As a stepping-off point, we should insist that our elected representatives publicly acknowledge the risk of neglecting the bridges, roads and other essential hardware that goes into making a modern civilization. Then we should hold them accountable for setting priorities and for marshaling the requisite resources to repair our increasingly brittle society.

  3. 3 Matt H. August 7, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Anyone else frustrated that 25% of the nations bridges are “rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” while the NY Times estimates that the Iraq war (as of January) had cost $1.2 trillion? ABC ran the story of local residents who protested during the president’s visit to MN. I love the banner… “support bridges, not war.”

  4. 4 bobbyjones August 13, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    “Buck Passes Through Here”

    John Gunyou, Minnetonka’s city manager, observes in today’s Strib that there is an artful culture of inaccountability in politics today. Language like “mistakes were made” and “let’s not play the blame game” ring through the halls of Congress and our state capitols. The only honorable thing for Carol Molnau to do is to accept resposibility and resign.

    One more thought on urban vs rural power in the legislature and Congress: Molnau and other out-state legislators resist investments in the Twin Cities like the Hiawatha Light Rail line; how can she stand there with a straight face and say she’d done everything in her power to ensure a safe and efficietn transportation system in Minnesota? Shame on her.

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