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Hundreds gather to remember bridge tragedy

Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Greek Orthodox and Catholic leaders offered prayers Friday, reflecting the religious backgrounds of those who died a year ago in the Minneapolis bridge collapse.
Image: Bridge anniversary memorial
Survivor Erica Gwillim is comforted by her brother, Eran, on Friday during an interfaith service marking the one-year anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Gwillim was one of dozens of people who were injured on the bridge when it collapsed during rush hour.Dawn Villella / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Buddhist monks chanted, American Indians pounded drums, and Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Greek Orthodox and Catholic leaders offered prayers and scripture Friday, reflecting the religious backgrounds of those who died a year ago when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed during the evening rush hour.

The interfaith service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis drew about 1,000 people, from bridge collapse victims to top state officials. People bowed their heads and shut their eyes, remembering and grieving.

The heavily traveled bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145. Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said the tragedy touched people around the world, raising basic questions about bridges and their safety.

"We all cross bridges, and I'm not talking about metaphors," Dyck said.

She added: "I still don't go over the Mississippi here in Minnesota that I don't look down and remember and pray."

Mercedes Gorden, whose legs and back were severely hurt in the collapse, broke down and cried during the service. The past year has been difficult, she said.

"I thought I'd be able to keep my composure, but no such luck," Gorden said.

But there were also signs of healing.

'Ordinary Workday'
Justine Hausmann, who lost her father, Peter Hausmann, said she has found strength she didn't know she had.

"I think that my dad can help me now more than he ever could before," said Hausmann, 17.

Linda Paul, who survived the collapse and is still dealing with an eye injury, said she has been buoyed by the compassion and support that has come her way, even as her recovery continues.

Paul planned to be on the Stone Arch Bridge just upriver from the old bridge at 6:05 p.m., the moment the bridge fell a year ago.

The remembrance was planned to be in Gold Medal Park, where people gravitated after the disaster to catch a glimpse of the destruction and leave flowers and homemade signs honoring the victims. Ceremonies there were to open to the sounds of simple instruments, including a conch shell, a flute and a gong.

Cathy DeCheine will strum her guitar and sing the song she wrote a few weeks after the collapse: "Ordinary Workday."

"People were on their way home," it goes. "Seemed nothing could ruin this fine summer day."

Procession, reading of names
About 5:30 p.m., police, firefighters and other law enforcers who responded to the bridge collapse were to lead a procession from the park about six blocks to the Stone Arch Bridge. That's just upriver from the freeway, where construction on the new bridge will halt from mid-afternoon to mid-evening.

Thirteen names will be read: Patrick Holmes, Artemio Trinidad-Mena, Paul Eickstadt, Sherry Engebretsen, Julia Blackhawk, Peter Hausmann, Sadiya Sahal, Hana Sahal, Richard Chit, Vera Peck, Christine Sacorafas, Scott Sathers and Greg Jolstad.

At 6:05 p.m., a moment of silence was planned, with an American flag unfurling on the new bridge and bells sounding.

The memorials are the first major public observance of the bridge collapse since last August, when residents across Minneapolis marked a moment of silence six days after the span fell.

"It's going to be a celebration of life, but I also think it's going to be a remembrance of what people went through," said DeCheine, an oncology nurse who like many others across Minnesota was glued to the television the night of the collapse. "I think we're going to get an opportunity to feel some of that."