The Opening of the I-35W Bridge
A Tribute to Flatiron Constructors and Their Maker
Today in Minneapolis the I-35W Bridge opened at 5 AM, one year and 48 days since it collapsed into the Mississippi River at rush hour (6:05 PM) on August 1, 2007. There are more reasons here to give thanks to God than meet the eye.
From the vantage point of one year later we may offer God several kinds of gratitude that were hard to express last year. Without minimizing the massive pain to the families of those who died, consider this.
If the bridge had collapsed at midnight and 13 people had died, the media would have been (rightly) filled with amazement that only 13 people had died, and officials would have been expressing relieved gratitude that the bridge did not collapse at rush hour. For if it had, surely hundreds would have died.
But the fact is, there was heavy traffic on the bridge at 6:05 PM when the bridge went down and still only 13 people died. This is simply astonishing. It could not be said out loud last year because even the pain of 13 lost (and 145 injured) is not to be minimized.
But now it must be said. Whatever reasons God had for not holding up the bridge at rush hour, he was merciful to spare hundreds of lives. For that we should thank him.
A second kind of gratitude should rise for the common grace of God in the rebuilding of the bridge. God gave the employees of Flatiron Constructors astonishing skill to finish this bridge 98 days ahead of schedule.
There were incentives--$200,000 a day for every day ahead of schedule with a 100 day limit. (So they lost $400,000 by opening on day 98 instead of day 100.)
But apart from money motives, think of the organizational feat of this project. Every part—every specially made sensor, every bar of steel, every ton of concrete, every wire, bolt, and screw, every massive form and its rolling mover, every crane, every unique and rare machine, every specialized worker—had to arrive at the right time in the right place for this bridge to be finished when Flatiron wanted it finished.
And they accomplished this to within two days of their goal to get all $20,000,000 bonus. Astonishing.
Hundreds of vendors supplied what Flatiorn needed. Failure of any one of them would have delayed the bridge. They worked round the clock. They worked in sub-zero temperatures. They worked in the rain and in the heat. And they finished it two days after the bonus deadline. Amazing.
When I drive over the bridge later today for the first time, I will see the product of “intelligent design” and intelligent organization and planning. There will be no doubt that this bridge was conceived and constructed by extraordinary intelligence.
But where did that come from? It came from God. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion . . . over all the earth’” (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore I thank God for Flatiron Construction. I pray they will know who it is that made them able to meet this deadline. “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).