Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I-35W Reopening: taking a look back

With the new I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge opening this Thursday, Sept. 18, I felt it appropriate to talk about some of the pictures I had taken August 1, 2007 and the related pictures following.

The week of the 35W bridge collapse was one of the longest weeks of my life. Working from 8 a.m. until 3 a.m., it seemed ironic I was only an intern.

I'm not going to bore you with a story I've told a million times. If you want the full story, check these sources: ( a slightly altered version by my hometown paper)

A picture can mean more than just who's in it

The picture of Michael Stoner kissing the hand of his fiance Crystal Manning after surviving the bridge collapse got published around the world days after the event. Janel Klein, Kare 11 personality, also did an interview with the couple.

Only after driving all the way to Spooner, Wisc. to try and find some more information on the couple did we found out that Michael Stoner had been accused of child abuse.

When people found that Stoner was accused of abusing his daughter, some opinions of the picture changed dramatically.

Knowing that Stoner had been accused of abusing his child before we had published the next issue of the Minnesota Daily also made it a difficult decision of whether or not to still run the photo.

We deliberated. As I understand, other papers did as well.

The picture ran on the full back page in the August 8, 2007 issue of the Minnesota Daily.

Looking back, I believe we made the correct decision.

As journalists, we need to depict the stories we tell in an accurate and fair way. Regardless of what Michael Stoner did or did not do, he is still human and was still affected in the bridge collapse that day.

The power of pictures

When we first arrived at the collapse sight, there were still people being pulled from the river and from beneath the bridge. It was hard to keep shooting, but we knew we only had a limited amount of time. The police kept pushing us back, little by little.

There were hundreds of pictures of the fallen bridge, but
few of the impact on the victims and people helping to rescue the victims. What we got was more than just a fallen thoroughfare. We were able to depict the impact on the lives of the victims.

The Coulter family was lucky to survive that day. Brandi, left, made an exceptionally strong impression on me. As I was taking pictures of her she started to look around, her face stark and in shock. Soon she broke out in tears.

Each of the family members was hurt in some way, the mother being the worst. Jim
Gehrz put together an amazing photo story showing the struggle that Paula Coulter and the rest of the family went though during and after the day of the collapse.

One of the last pictures I had gotten the day the bridge collapsed was the one above: a helicopter about to land on the 10th Avenue bridge. The bridge was just downstream from the collapsed 35W bridge and used for emergency vehicles soon after the bridge went down.

I was printing this picture off for a fire department (the fire engine on the left side of the picture on the bridge) at a Kinkos. While I was paying for the print, a woman in line behind me saw the picture and started to cry. I never really understood the power that pictures could have on people until that moment.

One year after

There were many familiar faces at the one year anniversary of the bridge collapse. Some there were victims, others were rescue workers and politicians, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

It was the first time since the collapse that I had seen many of the people. It was odd to see them. These people that I had never talked to before I felt so connected to because I had either taken or seen so many pictures of them and heard their stories of that day.

I met Andy Gannon, a survivor of the bridge collapse from Apple Valley, at an interview I did with WCCO. Even though we had never met, I felt somewhat of a connection to him.

As 6:05 approached, a moment of remembrance was taken on the Stone Arch Bridge for the 13 people that died. Andy Gannon started to cry on his wife's shoulder, Rybak behind him with tears in his eyes. Gov. Tim Pawlenty stood stark and had his eyes fixed forward. The victims seemed uneasy and deep in thought.

It was interesting to compare the emotions of Rybak and Pawlenty. Rybak seemed to show much more emotion, choking up when he spoke earlier in the morning and shedding a few tears on the Stone Arch Bridge. Pawlenty, on the other side, seemed detached and showed very little emotion.

After the ceremony, people went their separate ways, knowing that the new bridge would be done in only a few months. It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that so much action was taken to try and get things back to how they used to be. A new bridge was built, old bridges were inspected, and people went on with their lives. Still, anytime anyone says the word "bridge", I can't help but to think of Aug. 1, 2007.

1 comment:

mcs71205 said...

Dear Matthew Mead, I hope that this finds you. I hang the picture that you took of myself with my fiancee, Michael Stoner on my wall in my room. I just want to thank you for "A picture can mean more then just who's in it". This is the first kind blog/ article some one has written about us and I thank you for that. God Bless

Crystal Manning