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Rosemount choir performs at 35W memorial

Peter Hausmann's friends eagerly added their voices to a service honoring victims of the Aug. 1, 2007, Minneapolis bridge collapse.

"In tragic times, the community comes together," said Mary Ann Sexton, one of a 50-member Rosemount choir that sang during the Friday night service near where the bridge collapsed, killing Hausmann and 12 others.

Sexton is a member of the Rosemount St. Joseph Catholic Church choir, which was augmented by about 25 youths from the community.

The choir took part in one of two Friday memorial services honoring those killed, the 145 hurt and rescuers and others who have aided victims in the past year.

More than 1,000 attended the two services.

The first, in Minneapolis' St. Mary's Basilica, was formal and somber, with leaders of many religions offering prayers.

The second service was in a park just a grove of trees removed from the bridge collapse site. It featured singers and dancers of many types.

Minneapolis' Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River fell at 6:05 p.m. Aug. 1, 2007.

On Friday night, a dove was released on a bridge near 35W as each victim's name was read, followed by a moment of silence exactly one year after the collapse.

When the moment of silence ended, workers on the nearly completed replacement bridge unfurled a huge American flag.

An unexpected addition to the singers and dancers at the evening event was a lone bald eagle soaring for 10 minutes above the gathering, shortly after a group including some American Indians performed. To many Indians, the eagle is sacred and some believe when one appears it is a sign from God.

Some victims' families attended one or both services. Also on hand at the later event were workers given a six-hour break from rebuilding the new 35W bridge.

LouAnne Reger, owner of J and L Steel Erectors with about 75 workers at the bridge, said she was so touched she hardly could talk about the service.

"We build these (bridges) all the time and we never would have thought this could happen," Reger said about a bridge collapsing.

The Hudson, Wis., company does nothing but build bridges.

Her son, Mike, said workers were not required to attend the evening service, but a dozen or more did.

Politicians attended both Friday services, but generally stayed out of the spotlight.

"It's about the folks who have lost their lives and the families whose lives were devastated," said state Sen. Steve Murphy, a Red Wing Democrat who leads the Senate Transportation Committee. "It's part of the recovery process."


U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak led a procession from the musical service to the nearby Stone Arch bridge, where the victims' names were read.

The night service ended with "Amazing Grace" performed by the Emerald Society bagpipe and drum group.

Earlier in the day, Minnesota's United Methodist bishop said bridge collapse victims need a redundant support system, something the bridge itself lacked.

Bishop Sally Dyck joined others in telling those in St. Mary's Basilica that those affected by the collapse will continue to need support from the community.

Dyck compared the needed emotional support to what is being considered as the cause of the collapse. Because a single component failure could send the bridge into the river, there was no redundancy. Human support needs redundancy, she said, so victims continue to receive help.

Rybak said Minnesotans have done well in helping victims so far.

"Our challenge now is sustain our compassion," the mayor said.

Pawlenty called the victims' rescuers heroes.

"They did not hesitate," Pawlenty said of first responders, both average citizens and public safety workers. "They rushed forward to save others at great risk to themselves. ... Simply put, they are our heroes."

The governor urged those at the service to learn from the lives lost. "Each life can teach us something."

Pawlenty said the service, which he helped organize, was designed to remember and celebrate the lives lost.

"We hope that these public moments together help relieve some of the private burden and sorrow of these families," he said.

Immediately after the collapse, fears emerged that terrorists had targeted the bridge. That fear soon was dismissed, but was replaced weeks later by information that had a wider impact: Investigators found that a gusset plate joining beams on the 1,907-foot, 40-year-old bridge was just half as thick as it should have been.

That surprising revelation led Minnesotans to question other bridges' safety. Minnesota officials temporarily closed several bridges, and one in St. Cloud permanently, when inspectors discovered similar problems in the months following the collapse.

And despite extensive inspections Pawlenty ordered, problems continued as recently as a week ago when a several-hundred-pound chuck of concrete fell from a Twin Cities bridge onto an interstate highway.

The Rev. John M. Bauer, the Minneapolis basilica's pastor, said the collapse affected everyone.

Dyck agreed.

"I still do not go over the Mississippi ... when I do not look down and remember and pray," she said.