I arrived at the scene at around 6:55, approaching the buckled highway from the St. Anthony Main side. Clearly visible were a pair of boxcars crushed by the heaved roadway. As we neared, a woman suppressing tears raced past, her cellphone to her ear. Police in Minneapolis and Maple Grove uniforms and other officers politely asked crowds -- seemingly thousands -- to back away as they expanded their perimeter with police tape.
I stopped to ask a resident of the Stone Arch Apartments, Mary Ferkingstad, how she learned of the collapse. "I was in my apartment and I felt the whole building shake. I thought it was an earthquake or a bomb," she said. "I ran outside, saw the bridge collapse. I ran down to the river to see if I could help. I saw a bunch of cars trapped underneath the bridge. Police had just gotten there, trying to get to the people who are trapped under the bridge. I saw them start to pull out bodies, and there were a couple of chaplains that went down there to assist."
Even as we left, hundreds -- many with cellphones to their ears, digital cameras and movie cameras at their eyes -- remained on the Stone Arch Bridge, watching the scene, half horrified, half fascinated, it seemed.