Survivor stories: Julie Graves

Julie Graves was on the school bus when the bridge collapsed.

MINNEAPOLIS - On Aug. 1, 2007 the heavily-used Interstate 35W bridge collapsed, sending concrete and rebar, vehicles and the people inside them plunging into the Mississippi River. Thirteen people lost their lives and 145 were injured, some of them critically. 

On the 10-year anniversary of this life-changing event, KARE 11 is checking in with some of those whose lives changed forever that day. We asked each of them three questions. 

Here are the answers, in their own words.

Julie Graves

Where were you when the bridge collapsed?

I was on the Waite House chartered school bus returning from a swimming field trip, along with 53 kids from Waite House, seven other staff, and Kim Dahl the bus driver and her children.

My first thought was that the world was ending because I couldn’t see what was going on. And we were falling down. It was kind of like a drop where you’re on a roller coaster and your stomach kind of drops. But then we’d catch up with the pavement I think and kind of hit it. And then that happened a couple times until we just fell.

How did it impact your life?

I broke two vertebrae, shattered my ankle, broke the toes in my right foot.  While we all dealt with PTSD and different things afterwards, we did have each other and I can’t say enough about the power of community, about the power of looking out and caring for one another.

I’m a very optimistic and positive person. I struggle with certain things. I’m really claustrophobic, and I wasn’t that way. But that doesn’t impact my everyday living. I think if anything, it’s taught me the value of living every day to the fullest and investing myself into relationships and my community. I’m really enjoying my life but I feel I was that same person before the bridge collapse as well. If anything, it’s a heightened awareness of that. 

And where are you now? (physically and emotionally)

I’ve worked at Waite House for 15 years. I was here before the bridge collapse, I was here after. Working with kids gives me life. Gives me energy.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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