MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Four years ago on Aug. 1, 2007, Julie Graves was on a school bus with 52 children, who were returning from a field trip, when the I-35W bridge gave out from under them.
Graves feels lucky that she is alive to tell her story, and that all the children on the bus also survived.
“I remember free-falling three times and hitting whatever was left of the bridge,” Graves said.
Graves remembers the moment the bridge collapsed as if it happened just yesterday. She was the youth program manager at the Waite House Community Center in Minneapolis; and she, along with the other supervisors, was heading home from a field trip at Bunker Beach with more than four dozen kids on board the bus.
Graves said that when the bridge gave out, she flipped over the front seat and got stuck in the bus stairwell.
“I was trapped there for a bit and I kicked my way out,” Graves said.
The collapse killed no one on the bus, but Graves was left with a broken back, a shattered ankle and emotional scars that will last a lifetime.
She got her first look at the 35W Remembrance Garden Monday afternoon, and the moment was important to her. More than anything, Graves said she wants the memory of those who didn’t make it to live on.
“For me, every day I wake up, I am thankful that I made it off the bridge that day,” Graves said. “And I think about the people out there and the families that lost a loved one.”