‘The Whole Bridge Is Down’: 1st Responders Reflect On 35W Bridge Collapse

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They were the first rigs to respond to one of the worst man-made disasters in Minnesota history.

Next week will mark 10 years since the Interstate 35W Bridge collapse.

WCCO is looking back on Aug. 1 of 2007 with first responders who spent hours sifting through the devastation to save lives.

We sat down with two Minneapolis firefighters as they share the remarkable rescues made that day, and the people they remember most from a decade ago.

The first words were met with disbelief.

firefighters at 35w bridge collapse The Whole Bridge Is Down: 1st Responders Reflect On 35W Bridge Collapse

(credit: CBS)

“You just hear a call about a possible bridge collapse and [you’re like] ‘No way,'” said Minneapolis Fire Captain Shane Thorn.

Within five minutes, firefighters from Minneapolis Station Number 11 were on the scene for confirmation.

“That’s when they came right back down saying, ‘The whole bridge is down, the whole bridge is down,'” said Firefighter Jackson Millikan.

Read More: Doctors Remember I-35W Bridge Collapse

It was the very first shift Millikan worked as the captain of Rescue 9. He made the call to split up, and slid down to the river bank below.

“There were 17 cars, 24 victims and the two of us,” Millikan said.

They went car to car, keeping their training in mind.

“Who’s going to be OK for five minutes, who’s going to be OK for 20 minutes,” he said.

It was already too late for two people. They would eventually locate a woman who was eight months pregnant, still belted in her car.

shane thorn and jackson millikan The Whole Bridge Is Down: 1st Responders Reflect On 35W Bridge Collapse

Shane Thorn and Jackson Millikan (credit: CBS)

“So I crawled through the hole in the windshield, unbelted her, rolled her on top of me into the passenger seat. As he was getting her legs, I lifted her up through the hole in the windshield,” Millikan said.

That woman delivered her baby by C-section that day. Coincidentally, they named their baby before the bridge went down.

“I found out months later that the baby was named Jackson,” Millikan said. “Kind of a neat story.”

Just two years ago, another woman Millikan saved that day welcomed a baby girl — Liv Millikan Rudh.

Still, looking back 10 years later, both firefighters believe they aren’t the real heroes. They give that title to the people who weren’t in any uniform, but wouldn’t even think to leave.

“Every day there’s about 100 of us on duty and I don’t think we would have been able to do it without all of those people,” Captain Thorn said.

Thirteen people died the day of the bridge collapse, and 145 others were injured. In all, 93 people were rescued from the river.

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