Friday, August 03, 2007

Minnesota Bridge Collapse: Survivor Stories And Trying To Figure Out What Happened (Thursday's First Hour)

Hi guys. We've got Anderson Cooper in Minnesota tonight and he's got his live shot set up a few block's from the scene of the bridge collapse. As I said in my last post, the big question now is: why? That will be a running theme through the show tonight and I imagine all news for a while to come. We begin with an Anderson piece that's basically a timeline of everything that went down. Since I've hardly watched any coverage on this, that was helpful. Also, CNN has obtained a video of the bridge falling. It only took four seconds. Man.

Next up we have a "Keeping Them Honest" piece from Randi Kaye on whether this collapse could have been prevented. If we're voting, I'd like to be put down for a 'yes.' So okay, separate reports in 2001 and 2005 found structural problems with the bridge, but all the officials in the state and even the feds at the Department of Transportation, are standing behind Mn/DOT's claim that the bridge was safe. After the 2005 report found the bridge to be "structurally deficient," Mn/DOT had to chose between strengthening the bridge or doing indepth inspections. Guess which one they chose. Anyway, I guess we're in the defense phase of this story. Everybody will start blame gaming each other soon. And I swear to God if I hear anyone say that no one could have predicted the bridge would collapse...argh. I mean, at this point we have a collection of those: No one could have predicted terrorists would fly the planes into the towers. No one could have predicted the insurgency. No one could have predicted the levees would fail. After her piece, Randi tells us that Mn/DOT is trying to downplay everything by assuring us everything is okay because actually eight percent of the state's bridges are also structurally deficient. Oh, I feel so much better now. Because that makes the kind of sense that...doesn't.

On now to the survivor story of Marcelo Cruz, brought to us in a piece from Gary Tuchman. Marcelo actually purposely crashed his car into the side of the bridge to avoid going over. The twist here is that Marcelo is paraplegic due a gunshot wound he suffered seven years ago. So this would make the second time his life has been in serious jeopardy and he's only 26. That's some major good or bad luck, depending on how you look at it. Anyway, Gary and crew hang out with Marcelo at his house (and Gary makes a new furry friend) and then they very kindly drive him to the emergency room because he hurt his back and his van is, well, on what's left of the bridge. After his piece, Gary tells us that Marcelo has some survivor's guilt because he was unable to help a woman calling for help. Aw, but I guess that's understandable.

Moving on to an interview with witness Deb Boatwright. She's still fairly freaked out. But again, understandable. As we go out to commercial we get this in the teaser: "Also tonight, are you driving across a deadly accident waiting to happen?...The state of bridges and why you might want to choose another route to work." Okay, see, that's the kind of thing I was referring to in my post about the over-the-topness of some of the copy. Why the fear mongering? And it's impractical fear mongering because the chances of our next infrastructure failure again being a bridge is probably pretty slim. May as well tell everyone never to leave their homes. (Edited to add: Apparently I'm not the only one that noticed the fear mongering of that tease.) Anyway, next up we have a piece from Allan Chernoff on Jeremy Hernandez, the 20 year old camp counselor that heroically helped get all those kids off the school bus that was on the bridge. Though he was disoriented from the collapse and dust in the bus made visibility poor, Jeremy immediately snapped into action, opening the back door and handing kids to other people who had run up to help. Wow. That guy needs a raise.

Transitioning now to Anderson telling us that today "divers found at least 11 vehicles below the surface of the Mississippi River." Basically I'm only mentioning it so I can make fun of how Anderson says "Missippi." He doesn't have time for four syllables, people! Sorry Anderson, I need to use you for levity. I'm sure you understand. Anyway, we then have an Anderson piece on the preparation of the underwater rescue divers and how dangerous it is to go down there. There are hazards galore and they have to have spotters. No, thank you. We're then joined by John Ochsendorf, structural engineer from MIT. He tells us the collapse was very sudden and should not have happened. They then get into some engineering aspects and analyze a couple of before and after pictures. Anderson notes that investigators are going to rebuild the bridge to try to figure out what happened. John thinks it will be months and maybe even longer before we know the answer. Anderson then asks if he worries when traveling over bridges. John says no and basically that people shouldn't freak out. However, he also adds that "we need federal investment in maintenance of our infrastructure." Word.

Next up we have a Dan Simon piece on our country's bridges, a fourth of which are structurally deficient. And some states are fairing worse than others. Actually western states are in better condition because there's not all the de-icing that occurs in the east and elsewhere. We get some sound bites from Stephen Flynn who wrote "Edge of Disaster", and you might remember him being featured in a 360 special on the vulnerabilities of America. Anyway, it spanned over two hours, and while I was really excited at the time for the topic to be getting coverage, I was also a little disappointed because it felt like only a surface investigation. You can read the specifics in the posts. Anyway, I bring that up because I see Soledad O'Brien is doing a special on our infrastructure, which I applaud, but I also see it's airing on Friday. That's less than 48 hours after the collapse. So, either they've already previously done investigative work on this topic that I've never seen...or we're getting another surface investigation. But maybe they'll surprise me. Never say never. Back in the piece, we're told that it will take $461 billion to fix all our bridges and roadways. Wow. That's a lot. I mean, if we blew all that on infrastructure we use every day, where would we get the money for unnecessary wars?

Finally tonight, Anderson gives us the "360 Snapshot", which I'm assuming is the tragedy version of "The Shot." Anyway, we meet Melissa Hughes, a new mom just off maternity leave. Melissa is very lucky because though she didn't know it at the time, during the collapse a car flipped on top of her car. But she's fine and mother and baby have been reunited. So yay for that and the school bus and everybody else that survived. No letter grade tonight because it makes me feel tacky with the tragedy and all. I'm planning on blogging the second hour, but no promises. And since there were two hours I'm not sure why we couldn't have gotten a little bit of other news besides the headlines. But that's a CNN thing. They latch onto a story like this and throw everything they have at it because they know they can get all the people that don't normally watch news. A lot of the regular viewers, like me, then actually watch less. I learned long ago that you can waste an incredible amount of time watching a breaking news story and learn less than two minutes of actual information. But that's the way the news ball bounces. That's all folks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I really enjoy your blog every day. One of the reasons I read your blog is because you say straight forwardly about the content of the show, good or bad, not just glorifying what AC is doing. Particularly in today's blog you mentioned about the tendency to fear mongering by using certain phrases (and the tone of voice). Ditto! I am wondering if AC recognizes that aspect. I wish he would, because I like him and I want him to be a really good jounalist.

8:37 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

Thanks anon! I'm a big fan of Anderson and the show, but I'm not one for pedestals and there wouldn't be much point to this blog if all I did was love on them.

As for the fear mongering, it's probably a combination of them not even realizing they're doing it and trying to compete with the crap they go up against.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Todd said...

As a former structural engineer I hope you focus your reports on the lack of funding in this country for our infrastructure. The men and women that design and inspect these bridges are very talented engineers and the issue here is almost certainly money. My heart is heavy with this tragedy and I want to make sure the blame is not put on the dedicated engineers that work for us everyday.

5:00 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@todd-I agree. And it looks like the coverage is mostly going to focus on the money. Hopefully this will bring about change, though I'm not holding my breath.

12:45 AM  

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