A bridge collapses. A child asks why.

By Sara McGinley

All I heard was my husband, Aron’s, side of the conversation.

“Yes. Yes. We’re all fine. I’ve been home for an hour. A bridge? Whoa.”


“Sara get over here. Look at this. This is so weird.”

Aron has been known from time to time to scream with urgency that I need to come see something, that I need to drop everything and respond to whatever it is he is doing.

More than once in the first year of our marriage I dropped everything and went running only to find out that Aron was calling me to read an interesting article or hear about a new idea he had.

Certainly these were important things. But did I need to leave the washing machine running with the lid open for that?

So last night, despite the fact that he sounded truly worried and was racing to the television I did one last thing. I put the kid’s milk in the refrigerator. And walked slowly over to the television where he sat with our two kids.

They were talking about the dark cloud that billowed into the sky when the bridge that is just over a mile from our house fell.

The bridge. The bridge we drove over just the day before with both kids strapped in the back seat. The bridge we drive on regularly was sitting in the Mississippi River. And it had just fallen. And it had fallen during rush hour.

I was full of questions.

Did we know anyone on the bridge?

Could anyone live through something like that?

What made this happen?

And why?

And then my three year old started doing what he does best and what he has done more than anything else for the past week.

He asked why.

Why is that bridge broken?

Why is that train squooshed under the bridge?

Why is that truck ripped?

Why is a school bus on that bridge?

Meanwhile I was pushing redial over and over on my cell phone because I couldn’t get through to my sisters.

Sometimes I got a busy signal. Sometimes a message that the network was busy. Sometimes the call didn’t go through at all. Over and over I called. Just wanting to be sure they were okay.

And our son kept asking why.

Had Aron known what we were going to find on TV last night he probably wouldn’t have let the kids see it. It’s a lot for a 3 year old to take in.

Since he did see it we were honest. We answered his questions.

We told him the bridge broke and we didn’t know why. We told him that the cars were on the bridge because they were driving on it when it broke, that people were in the water because they fell off the bridge.

When we finally brought him to bed he said he was nervous about the bridge and he and Aron talked about it for a while. And then our son, Eliot, said he was ready to sleep and he did.

While the kids slept we got a hold of our families who were all fine. We heard from friends across the country via email wanting to know if we were okay.

This morning when our son woke up he wanted to know more about the bridge.

He asked and asked and asked questions.

And Aron and I decided to just let him ask and ask until he was done asking and that we’d just keep answering as honestly and simply as possible.

After he asked more about his beloved cars and buses and trains and construction equipment he asked about the people.

He asked if people were sad when the bridge fell.

We said we thought they were.

And the questions paused for a moment.

He pointed to the bridge on his train set and said that bridge falls down and people don’t cry.

Then he said.

And I’m not making this up.

“Maybe people poop on bridge.”

And he giggled.

And I looked at him and then looked at Aron.

And Aron said, yeah Eliot, some people probably did poop when the bridge fell.

He didn’t ask why about that. He seemed content with the story.

Later we looked at some pictures and I told him a lot of people called and emailed to make sure we were okay.

I told him a lot of people love us and like having us around.

He didn’t ask why about that either.

He seemed content with that story too.

Sara McGinley, priest’s wife and mother of two, writes the blog Sara McGinley, where you can find other news on Wednesday’s bridge collapse in Minnesota. Episcopal News Service’s coverage of the bridge collapse is here.

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