Reporting Aristea Brady
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Just two days after its dedication, someone or some persons have defaced a memorial built to honor those affected by the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
About two dozen of the steel letters, which spelled out a message of dedication, were ripped off of a memorial wall.
The remaining letters have been removed for the time being. A contractor at the scene said that the estimated value of the defaced property is about $4,000.
Julie Graves, a survivor of the bridge collapse, is trying not to take the vandalism personally.
“I wake up every day, just so grateful for my life, and having a beautiful daughter and having a body that’s almost completely functional again,” she said.
She said those at the Waite House Community Center have been through a lot — loss, surgeries and pain. It takes a little more than this to bring down her survivor spirit, Graves said.
“I really believe that whoever did this wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt any of us,” she said. “I don’t take it personally, it’s just very unfortunate that it happened.”
Graves said this will not prolong what’s already been years of suffering. She said she and her students will still go visit the wall and see it as a symbol of the strong Minnesota community.
“This is an act of stupidity but it’s an aberration from who and what we really are,” she said. “We know what we’re made up of, and this isn’t it.”
The garden is located on West River Parkway right across from Gold Medal Park, overlooking the Mississippi.
The entire memorial is 81-feet long to coincide with the date of the collapse: Aug. 1.
Each of the 13 pillars is inscribed with the names of the people who died in the bridge collapse.
Along with their names, the families wrote a special message about their loved one.
Before the vandalism, the wall’s message read, “Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how he act in the fact of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.”
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak urged the person or people responsible for the vandalism to return the stolen letters.
“When the bridge collapsed and people were suffering, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans surrounded them with compassion. Now one or more individuals, through a single act of remarkable ignorance, are prolonging that suffering,” Rybak said in the statement. “That can change. I call on those responsible to immediately return the stolen letters. It’s beyond description how wrong this act is, but it does not change the thousands of acts of compassion and support that this community has shown.”
Authorities said it will be about two weeks before the new letters are in place. Police do not have any leads in this case.
Mayor Rybak said they’re looking into added security for the memorial — and a new way to keep the letters more intact.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call police at (612) 673-5701 and ask for the property crimes division.