There are certain days of vending, I will never forget…
Some have to do with the action on the field:
Games 6 and 7 of the 1991 World Series
Game 1 of the 2002 Divisional Playoffs vs. Oakland.
Then there are unforgettable games that have nothing to do with anything to do with baseball:
The night Tom died
The first game played after 9/11
August 1, 2007 was a night I will never forget… and it had nothing to do with anything that happened in the game.
I usually park in a commercial parking lot close to the Dome that does not charge and does not tow. (These are the secrets you learn after 20 years on the job.) On this night the lot was full so I proceeded to my backup parking spot on the other side of 35W.
It required a bit of a drive because of the proximity to 35W and I-94, but it was not much further to walk to the Dome. Besides, it was free to park there.
I took Washington Ave. and crossed over 35W going east at about 6PM to get to my parking spot. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary just yet… But, nothing had happened.
I arrived at my parking spot around 6:05 and proceeded to take the footbridge back over 35W to get to the Dome. It was a walk that on every other day was extremely noisy due to the traffic underneath. I had walked this bridge hundreds of times with Ed (another beer vendor who parked in the same area), and it was impossible to carry on a conversation until arriving at the other side. We would usually just walk without talking for a while and then continue the conversation on the other side of the bridge. Today, I was late and walked the bridge by myself.
On this day, there was no noise underneath, and was almost surreal as I could actually hear my footsteps. That was something I had never heard before on this walk.
Looking down to the freeway below, it was obvious something was wrong. There were absolutely no cars going Southbound on 35W and traffic was completely stopped going Northbound.
I remembered thinking there must have been a serious accident on the bridge over the Mississippi River that shut down all traffic. Until I arrived at the Dome about 6:15, I had no idea of the magnitude of what had happened.
Arriving at the Dome, I noticed all the vendors around the guard desk watching the TV. I looked in to discover the reason for all of the strange things that I noticed on my trip in to the Dome.
The 35W Bridge over the Mississippi River had collapsed at 6:05 PM.
There were not many details or any video at this point, and no one really knew what was going on. The bridge went down an hour before game-time, and we weren’t even sure if people could make it to the game or if the game would be played.
The Twins decided to play the game, and we went to work. It was interesting that the conversation in the stands had very little to do with the game on this evening. It had to do with talking to fans and passing along to others what we heard about the collapse. Everyone wanted to know from everyone else what had happened.
I’m sure many people at home sat by their TV sets that evening and watched as the news and video rolled in about the collapse and the victims and survivors. We were shielded from that news in the Dome. No one had any connection to what was happening only a mile away.
Vendors were not exempt from this tragedy. Word spread of a couple of our colleagues who passed over that bridge to get to the Dome every night and had not made it to the game. We all were talking on each trip back to the room asking about the vendors that were not in the building that night, hoping they were not on the bridge.
Finally word came in that each was safe and caught in traffic behind the collapse.
Looking back on the game that night, I remember all the conversations with fans about the collapse and the emotion of thinking about all the empty seats. We all were left wondering if the reason for the empty seats was because someone did not make it over the bridge alive.