The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Currents

May 16, 2013

Fall of faith

I 35W Bridge Survivor Recounts Falling 60 Feet

For Lois Welman, plummeting 60 feet during rush hour traffic when Interstate 35W’s Mississippi River Bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007 -- killing 13 people and injuring 144 individuals -- was essentially a lesson in how to trust the Lord.

“God helped me through that experience,” says Welman. “I am so very grateful to still be here.”

On any other day, Welman’s normal route home from work consisted of taking Interstate 94, but due to traffic congestion, she made the decision to try I-35W not realizing there was a Twins baseball game going on at the nearby stadium.

By the time she realized I-35W was also congested, it was too late to take a different route home as she entered the bridge. About two-thirds of the way across, she remembers feeling the bridge begin to shake,

“I thought it was an earthquake. I really believed this was how I was going to die,” says Welman.

The fall happened so fast that once it was over, Welman remembers seeing a pickup truck resting upside down on top of the vehicle beside hers. Unable to get out of her driver’s side door, Welman climbed across the seat to exit through the passenger door. As she stared at the wreckage around her, she realized they were on a service road just after the river’s edge.

“I remember being surprised at how quickly help arrived,” says Welman. “He said I was free to go if I wasn’t hurt. I told him I was fine other than a having a bad head and backache, so I walked out of there.”

Shortly after leaving scene, Welman ran into a college student who helped her to get to the nearby Lutheran Center where they waited until a friend arrived to pick her up. Tests completed at a hospital later on that evening would reveal Welman had two compressed vertebrae fractures.

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