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New Exhibit Remembers Survivors Of 35W Bridge Collapse

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(credit: CBS) Edgar Linares
Edgar Linares moved to the Twin Cities 24 hours before the largest...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The new photo exhibit at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis is marking the fifth anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse.

The artist behind the exhibit, called “Bridge,” is Vance Gellert. He said it’s the culmination of a two-year project and will be at the museum until December.

“I worked with probably 60 people,” said Gellert. “There’s a total of 50 portraits sessions.”

The portraits are made up of survivors, families of those who died, first responders and others closely associated with the collapse.

Gellert says like many in the Twin Cities, he can remember exactly where he was the day the bridge came down. In fact, he had driven over the bridge earlier that day.

“I was home and I got a call from my son and he said, ‘Dad, the bridge fell down,'” Gellert said. “I told him ‘What? Bridges don’t go down.'”

The display is 75-feet long and there’s a slideshow that plays alongside it.

“This project was about bringing people together,” Gellert said. “The people that were on the bridge are a very unique, a random selection of people from the area.”

Those at the museum, walked by the portraits, and were immediately transported back to Aug. 1, 2007 — the day where 13 people lost their lives and 145 were injured.

“I think when there is a tragedy, a community tragedy, everybody is impacted by it,” said Hayley Finn, associate producer at PlayWright Center.

Joe Fleury, from Eden Prairie, said the day of the collapse he avoided the bridge because of construction. He thinks that may have saved his life.

“Life got tough for a night, didn’t it?” he said.

Beyond the art inside the museum, there’s another display on the Mississippi River. Thirty-five giant rings are floating in the water to symbolize the name of the 35W bridge.

The intertubes that float along the water are all different shapes and sizes.

Maja Spasova wants her work to center on the survivors, as they recover and are forced to live with the memory of that day.

“We all need one or another form of life rings, giving a good work, giving love, giving support, taking care of your responsibilities,” she said.

Twin Cities companies donated the “giant intertubes” from the tires of trucks and machines. Spasova and others painted them white, before installing them under the Stone Arch Bridge a few days ago.

Todd Boss added his own touch to the project: poems.

He interviewed survivors and others, before writing 35 poems about the collapse. Each contains 35 words.

“We all experienced a trauma that day, so this is something for all of Minnesota to contemplate that,” he said.

To hear Todd’s poems, you can call (612) 573-5900. Minnesotans themselves actually read and recorded those poems.

The life rings will float until the end of August — 30 days for public viewing and personal reflection.

Artists hope the memory of that deadly day will live in the minds of Minnesotans, long after these rings are removed.

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