Thursday, August 2, 2007

If You Love Someone

If you love someone, tell them
by Charlie Leck

Earlier in the day, yesterday, I passed by the I-35W bridge that crosses the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis. I was on my way home from a day of research for something I’m writing. I wanted nothing to do with the bottleneck where I-94 joins up with the traffic coming off that bridge. I thought that I’d prefer dozens of traffic lights to joining that maze. There would be things to look at in the city and I’d observe some of the people along the way. Better stories come that way.

I got home, tired and hot and hungry. I fixed a drink and dug out the rice cooker that the kids gave me for Father’s Day. There was a good looking piece of ham in the frig and a nice loaf of bread. Nothing fancy, but it would do for dinner. I turned on the news and it murmured in the background as I read through the newspaper. I heard the good woman come in the backdoor and plop the mail down. She shouted out a hello just as I heard the guy on CNN say something about Minneapolis and a bridge. I moved closer to the TV and looked down at it. There was image of splayed concrete and steel, tangled and laying in the water and there were mangled cars everywhere. Other automobiles and trucks virtually hung on concrete roads that led only to disaster. People were moving about like ants on the screen. Some dove into the water. Others were climbing out of the river.

It took a moment for the sound and sights on the screen to come together so that I could understand what had happened. I screamed for the wife, telling her to come quickly, to see. The scenes were horrendous. The backdrop was all so familiar, though. How many dozens of times had I crossed that bridge. It is so high up above the river. The TV shots didn’t show the height at all. Down below – way down below – run a couple of roads on either side of the river and there are train tracks and railroad yards and, of course, the mighty river.

We didn’t sleep well. I had a number of strange nightmares. Some family called from Texas and Florida to make sure we were okay. It made us think about things and so we checked on our own kids to make sure they were safely home. We tossed and turned and thought about the families who were waiting to hear about someone who had failed to come home.

On TV this morning they interviewed the Engebretsen girls. They were so lovely and so pretty. They have beautiful, dark skin that doesn’t match their last name. They were adopted as infants and brought here to Minnesota from Columbia. Their mom had taken the bridge. She was missing. The girls were strong and brave and said they were prepared for whatever the outcome. They learned it from their mom. The reporter asked if they had anything to say to people watching.

One of the pretty girls, with very wet eyes, gave us her advice: “If you love someone, tell them, and always tell them!”

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