Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This Wednesday will mark five years since the 35W Bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River during the evening rush hour.
That day, 13 people died and 145 were injured. For some of the survivors, recovery has been a long road that’s changed their lives.
At his sandwich shop in Blaine, Garrett Ebling is there to make sure the lunch rush goes smoothly. As he busies himself around the restaurant, most don’t notice the scar on his arm or the changes to his face. They are daily reminders of how far he’s come since Aug. 1, 2007.
“You look in the mirror and you look a little different than you did before. Those are constant reminders. Early on, they were negative reminders. Now, I’m able to move forward with them and be content with that,” said Garrett Ebling, a bridge collapse survivor.
Garrett’s car plunged 100 feet into the rushing river on that day. He broke bones and damaged organs.
“When I was in the hospital, and severely injured, there was a point when doctors said we’re not quite sure I’m going to make it through,” said Ebling.
His near-death experience changed the course of his life. He got married a year after the collapse. He had a son a year-and-half ago. He opened a restaurant last year and recently became a published author. This all happened while he was trying to heal.
“Physically, five years after collapse, you’re about as good as you’re going to get,” he said.
The emotional recovery wasn’t as easy.
“Dealing with the PTSD-type symptoms, the irritability and depression,” he said. “It’s all very real and unexpected.”
Garrett found therapy through the written word. What started as CaringBridge postings eventually made their way into book form. He recently published a memoir called, “Collapsed: A Survivor’s Climb from the Wreckage of the 35W Bridge.
The last five years have brought incredible change for Garrett, but moving forward also means looking back.
“I’m OK that my life has gone in this direction and understand the blessings that come with that,” said Ebling.
Part of the proceeds from the book will go to the Survivors Resources organization. The group offers counseling and other support to anyone affected by the 35W bridge collapse.