Stronger Than Steel – Relationships Endure Years After 35W Bridge Collapse

Saturday, August 1st will mark eight years since the I-35W bridge collapse, an event that impacted so many in the Twin Cities area. And for some, the entire trajectory of their life was transformed in that one, terrifying instant.

In the aftermath, otherwise unrelated individuals were brought together through the accident and were able to make room in their lives to support one another.

We recently held a memorial for one such individual. Brent Olson was a survivor of the bridge collapse, and remained a big part of the survivor support community in the area until his death. As evidenced by the people who attended his service, he made a tremendous impression on those around him.

35W Bridge Collapse Survivor
Chris and Brent Olson (Image via The Olson Family)

Brent Olson was part of a Survivor Resources group that met for two-and-a-half years following the bridge collapse; many of the members remain close friends to this day. Their mutual understanding and desire to connect with and help one another in the years following the disaster has endured, and many people came to pay respect to Brent, and to show their appreciation for the advocacy work he did for bridge survivors and their families.

One of the most meaningful and challenging things the Olsons were able to accomplish was making sure those closely impacted by the event were able to claim a piece of the steel from the bridge, in order to gain closure and to forever remember the events of that fateful day.

For Brent Olson and his wife Chris, their concern for others was evident immediately following the incident. Brent and Chris were crossing the bridge on their way to celebrate their anniversary at a Twin’s game when it collapsed around them. Uninjured, the couple was soon able to take action, settling at the Red Cross to be with the children who were in the school bus that narrowly escaped a tragic fate.

Though grateful to be alive, the Olsons were very aware of the traumatic impact of the bridge collapse. They sought support from Survivor Resources, a community organization for those affected by violent and unexpected deaths, including homicide, accidental deaths, and suicide. Brent was a regular attendee of meetings, and had strong connections with the other members of the group, who became his close friends.

35W Bridge lit purple for Alzheimer's advocate
The new 35W Bridge was lit purple on Father’s Day in Brent’s honor. (via Instagram @kaseyvesel)

For Brent and his family, the bridge collapse became a new life challenge in reaching out and finding support, but also in giving back and ensuring that other survivors and their families were taken care of. For that reason, and also for his work for the Alzheimer’s Association, the new 35W bridge was lit purple in his honor on Father’s Day.

Sometimes, unexpected circumstances reveal a purpose that we never anticipated. That calling, however it manifests itself in our lives, has the potential to greatly affect the people around us, as it did for the people around Brent Olson.

For more information, or if you need support after the traumatic death of a friend or family member, visit http://www.survivorresources.org.

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