I had a few conversations with people today about the 35W bridge collapse. A friend of mine had gone down to see the ruin and was struck by the silence of the people there. He said, "I felt like I was at a funeral." People were quiet and somber. There was a sense of "we" there even though none of hte people knew each other. He said there was a colective, but silent, "that could have been me" that was very present, even without the need for words.
My friends is someone who gets it, who realizes that the human condition is such that we must grieve loss, that we must respect pwer that is mysterious and beyond us.
Because of strange power outage on the U of M St. Paul campus, I could not get done what I needed to get done (however, it is possible to use the bathroom by the light of a cell phone if you are really in a pinch) . My next meeting was 90 minutes away on in St. Paul, so I had some time to on my hands. I went to the collapsed bridge site, which is no easy task. The officials will not let anyone get close to it. But I did go down near the stone arch walkway to see what I could see.
There were hundreds of people down there occupying the street of the aparement flats nearest the river and the now collapsed 35W bridge. People were quiet as they carried their cameras and chatted somewhat somberly about their thoughts and ideas.
There were two people, however, who looked to be int heir early 20's who also appeared to live in the apartment complex who were clearly agitated by the all of the people coming down to look, to grieve, to be shocked.
"It's not a f***ing carnival," a young women shouted to no one specific.
"Yeah," shouted a young male brimming with sarcasm and wearing no short, "now playing, Bridge."
No one paid attention to them. They were so collectively ignored and dismissed by the crowd that most people did not even bother to burn a quarter of a calorie to move their neck or turn their head such that they would find out who was being so harsh. The non-reaction was so pronounced that it seemed scripted to make these shouters look like fools.
When you know better, you know better. You don't object to a person's attendance at a loved one's funeral. When a community has suffered loss, the kind of loss that is mysterious and seemingly random, you must process it. You must learn someonthing of it in efforts to make sense of it. There is a need, in large measure, to soak in the death.
Loss creates gigantic holes in people's lives and they repsond in some way such thatthe hole can be filled or at least they go on an effort to make sense of the hole and learn in painful ways how to go on with life now that this huge hole exists.
So, residents who live near the bridge, please allow the rest of us to experience now what you experienced the day after. Our need to understanding wilol require trips into your front yard. we do not mean to be a nuisance, but we do seek meaning.