Some families still struggling two years after bridge collapseAnniversary of Minneapolis freeway tragedy to be marked
ROSEMOUNT — It’s been two years since Justina Hausmann’s father died when a Minneapolis freeway bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River, long enough for some people to ask how she’s getting on with life.
By: Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
ROSEMOUNT (AP) — It’s been two years since Justina Hausmann’s father died when a Minneapolis freeway bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River, long enough for some people to ask how she’s getting on with life.
“It’s not like you stop thinking about it. I think about him every day,” said Hausmann, 18, as she sat with her mother in their living room. Mementoes of her father, Peter Hausmann, are scattered around the room.
Two years after the world’s attention focused on the spectacle of a busy interstate bridge falling apart, killing 13 people, even Minnesotans have largely moved on. A new bridge has been open in its place since last September, the 145 injured have mostly recovered and only a limited public observance is planned for Saturday’s anniversary.
Flags will fly at half-staff and a moment of silence will be at 6:05 p.m., the time of the accident. But a proposed memorial has drawn little of the funds it needs, the project lacks full city clearance and the final design is still being tweaked.
For the people whose loved ones died that day, it’s a struggle to move on.
“It works because it has to,” Justina Hausmann says of her family’s daily challenges.
“It doesn’t get easier,” says her mother, Helen Hausmann.
Justina, the oldest of four children, has had to do more as her mother struggled. Helen, a Kenyan immigrant who met her husband when he was a missionary in her village, “depended on him like a kid depends on a grown-up,” Helen said. “When he died, I was helpless.”
Helen never worked outside the home, never learned to drive. The family has relied on charity and help from friends and their church, and like all survivors, a settlement from the state.
While Minnesota has settled with the bridge victims, other lawsuits are still pending, included several by victims who accuse an engineering firm that studied the bridge of negligence. The state itself filed its own lawsuit against URS Corp. this week, saying the San Francisco-based company should have found the crucial flaw that led to the collapse.
URS spokesman Ron Low on Friday pointed out state officials previously praised the work of URS, and said the company would defend itself vigorously from the state’s effort to recover more than $37 million it paid to survivors.
Even with her share of that settlement, Helen Hausmann worries about having enough money to send all four kids to college.
Still, she says she can be thankful for the 20 years that Peter was in her life.
That’s the kind of time that Betsy Sathers didn’t get. She and her husband, Scott Sathers, were married just 10 months when he died on his drive home from work.
Sathers said the first few months afterward were horrible. But eventually she decided she couldn’t put aside some plans that she and Scott had made. The couple wanted to start a family, and Sathers is now adopting a child from Haiti.
“You know, it’s not what I would have planned,” Sathers said of raising a baby alone. “But since this tragedy occurred, you figure out new ways to make what you want in your life to happen.”
Lisa Jolstad realized she needed a change of scenery to get on with her life.
Her husband, Greg Jolstad, was a member of the construction crew working on the bridge when it collapsed. Last August, after a year marked by dark feelings and legal struggles with her husband’s family, Jolstad picked up and moved to South Carolina.
“I just had to come out of whatever I was in,” Jolstad said. In January, she will remarry.
“He encourages me to talk about Greg and he likes to hear my memories,” Jolstad said.
She’s not the only survivor who lost a spouse and is now remarrying. Ron Engebretsen lost his wife of 33 years, Sherry, in the collapse.
As Engebretsen prepares for his September wedding, he recalls a conversation with Sherry in which they gave each other permission to pursue happiness if the other died.
“We didn’t choose this happening to us, but you do have a choice of how you respond to tragedy,” Engebretsen said. “What you had in the past was good, but there’s things out there for you if you can push forward with life.”