- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) | 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 accident touched people around the world, raising basic questions about bridges and their safety.

“We all cross bridges, and I’m not talking about metaphors,” Bishop Dyck said, adding that “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.”

But there were also signs of healing. Justina 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 Miss 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.

Ms. 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.”

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 midafternoon to midevening.

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