MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Faith is a constant inside the home of Helen Hausmann.
“When Peter loved, he loved really hard,” Helen said.
And for the past 10 years, faith has been her guide after the love of her life was suddenly gone.
“He was alive and well, full of plans for the future, for his family, for that evening and then he didn’t come home,” she said.
Helen met Peter Hausmann in her native Kenya, where he did mission work. They eventually were married and moved to the Twin Cities where they would raise a family.
“I had a mission to finish — that’s to carry on after Peter,” she softly explained.
Helen recalls Peter’s last phone call on August 1, 2007 while he was stuck in traffic, somewhere on the 35W bridge. He was on his way to pick up a clergy friend and bring him home for dinner that evening.
“Peter usually ended the phone call, ‘Bye, see you later, I love you,’ and he did not say that, the phone went just like that,” she said.
Peter would be among the 13 victims who lost their lives when the bridge collapsed.
Although he survived the initial fall, Peter went back into the water attempting to reach a pregnant mother and her child who were trapped in their car.
That’s where Peter’s body was found by Navy divers nine days later, pinned by debris.
“He looked out for the most vulnerable among us,” said Helen’s daughter, Justina Kopp.
The couple’s four children are now young adults. Daughter Justina has four children of her own. Peter would be the children’s grandpa.
“Oh, the best, the best,” Justina said, choking back her tears.
Her intense sadness over the loss of a father and grandfather is shared for what his loss meant to others as well.
“He just had a great love and respect for those around him. And I think that’s something we could all benefit from,” Justina said.
For college student David and Theresa, a high school senior, the loss of their dad 10 years ago will be marked by quiet reflection.
“Seeing how far we’ve gotten and how much further we have to go. What gifts we’ve had have already been given to us,” said David Hausmann.
The special occasions such as birthdays and holidays are hardest. But these days, those family get-togethers are filled with more smiles than tears.
“We’re emotional now but we’re always happy. My wedding day was a happy day. Andrew’s wedding day is going to be a very happy day. We have so much to celebrate, even though we’ve lost so much,” Justina said.
On occasion, Helen and the kids will stop by to visit the 35W bridge memorial to the victims. It’s a location where it might seem so natural for a family member to be filled with anger.
“Every day, but being angry is not going to bring him back,” Peter’s wife, Helen said.
Instead, Helen feels an intense sense of happiness for the couple’s four children, who are each guided by their father’s enduring example.
“I would just like to have my siblings know that he would be so proud of us,” eldest daughter Justina said.
“I believe Peter is gone physically, but spiritually I know he’s with me every day,” Helen said.
Where he is carried in hearts that are still heavy with loss, but filled by a father’s intense love.
And to all others touched by this tragedy, a decade ago, Helen gives her prayers.
“There’s not a day that has gone by that I don’t remember all of you and wish you the very best in life, and the grief is overwhelming, but don’t give up, carry on,” said Hausmann.
It’s what this husband and proud father would want them to do.