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Red Cross Responds to Tragic Bridge Collapse
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Amanda Mark
August 7, 2007

After one of the most traveled bridges in the Twin Cities metropolitan area crashed into the waters of the Mississippi River, the American Red Cross responded immediately – focusing on the urgent needs of the first responders, survivors, and friends and loved ones of the victims. The tragic I-35W bridge collapse killed at least five individuals and injured roughly 100 others. The 50-plus car wreck also resulted in eight individuals being reported as missing.

The Twin Cities Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, located across the Mississippi River from the collapsed bridge, reacted immediately by providing a safe haven for the children who were riding in a school bus that crashed during the collapse. About 20 school children gathered in the Red Cross chapter building while Red Cross staff and volunteers inspected them for injury and provided food and hugs to the scared children.

As the situation grew graver, the Red Cross turned its parking lot into a central command area – allowing emergency personnel and local law enforcement officials a central location to strategize, and gather and distribute resources.

Emergency Response Vehicle Driver Tammy Pollasky hands out hot coffee on a rainy day to the Sherrifs on duty at the I-35 Bridge Collapse.
Emergency Response Vehicle Driver Tammy Pollasky hands out hot coffee on a rainy day to the Sherrifs on duty at the I-35 Bridge Collapse
(Photo Credit: Talia Frenkel)

In the following days, as Minnesotans awoke to discover that their unreal nightmare was, in fact, a reality, the Red Cross continued to offer essential services such as food, water and emotional support for family and friends of the missing. Basic nourishment was also provided for the first responders who continued their recovery mission. To date, the Red Cross has provided more than 4,900 meals and over 6,000 snacks.

In addition to support surrounding the disaster site, the Red Cross, along with its government and non-profit partners such as the City of Minneapolis and the Salvation Army, opened a Family Assistance Center. Originally located in a hotel near the bridge collapse, the center has now been moved to a nearby college campus. At the Family Assistance Center, families and friends of the missing and deceased gathered at a central location for information and comfort. The Red Cross served food, drinks and offered emotional and mental support as these families waited for the latest news about their loved ones.

"This is a different type of a disaster," said Red Cross Staff Deb Radi. "Normally, we're talking about someone losing their home due to a house fire so they have basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. In this situation, people have lost or are missing their loved ones, which is obviously much more devastating, but they still have basic needs that the Red Cross is striving to meet."

To meet these needs, Radi said that, as of Sunday, integrated teams of Red Cross health service and mental health caseworkers were working one-on-one with families of the missing, deceased and injured. The Red Cross caseworkers travel to the homes of the families and are also meeting with the families of the injured at local hospitals.

In addition to the continued personal care of the families and loved ones who were impacted by this disaster, the Red Cross has answered more than 1,200 inquiries, which include mental health counseling and emotional support.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.

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