Chaplain Shares Pain of Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

Post a Comment » Written on August 10th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (August 10, 2007) – Tears have been frequent companions of Pat Hall since the Interstate 35-west bridge collapsed during the evening rush hour August 1.

As chaplain for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department and the Burnsville Police Department, Hall has wept often and been with the grieving friends and family of the tragedy’s victims as they cried. Seven people have been confirmed dead and six remain missing.

Shortly after the bridge collapsed at 6:05 p.m., Hall, who was on his duty rotation, received a call that his services were needed immediately at the site. “The pictures hardly convey the real thing,” Hall says. “It’s like trying to experience the Grand Canyon from a picture.”

When Hall arrived and saw for himself the bridge in the water, the crumpled cars, as well as the injured and shaken survivors, he says, “I just started crying. It was so overwhelming.” He walked up to an FBI agent, “and he just started crying.”

Since then, he has helped break the news of the death of loved ones or that someone was missing. He has spent more than 100 hours ministering to families and friends of the victims and has been on the bridge repeatedly, where he ministered to rescue workers and law enforcement officials. Other people who were on the bridge when it collapsed, but survived, also have sought the help of chaplains.

Hall, who also is pastor of Frontline Church, which is newly adopted into the Evangelical Covenant Church, says many survivors are asking questions about where was God when the bridge collapsed. He replies that “there’s no answer as to ‘why’ that anyone knows. We have to ask, ‘What do we do now?’ ”

Each day, many of the victims’ relatives and friends stop at a room that has been set up for them at Augsburg College. “They come down in a room, and we sit and talk,” says Hall. That has led deepening relationships among all who are involved, he adds.

Hall says part of his job in helping people deal with the tragedy is to encourage them, “not to put it behind them, but how to move on with it.” The first step, however, has been for the chaplains to spend hours listening while wishing they knew what more they could do. “I feel so helpless. I can’t do anything but sit with them.”

The tragedy continues to affect the chaplains, too. “It’s really heavy. We’ve been debriefing, talking with one another,” Hall says. “There are intercessors praying with us.”
Hall says his daily devotions also are helping him through.

The Burnsville police chief plans to meet with the chaplains from his department in the morning to help them share stories and discuss their own issues, says Hall’s brother, Dan Hall, the founder and director of Midwest Chaplains.

The support of his family has helped Hall. “I have the most wonderful wife,” he says. “Sometimes Debbie just holds me while I cry.”

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