Retro Report is a non-profit news documentary organization that aims to “peel back back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media.”
Its most recent effort to find out “What really happened,” “How did these events change us” and “What are the lingering consequences that may affect our society to this day” is aimed at a tragic story familiar to most Minnesotans: The Aug. 1, 2007 collapse of the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, which killed 13 people, injured more than 100 and prompted a national discussion on the deteriorating condition of the country’s infrastructure.
The bridge documentary, which was published on The New York Times website last week, asks whether the country has learned the lessons it needs to learn from the collapse, which — less than seven years old — may be fading from memory. Even Minnesotans may need to have their memories jogged: The state is still struggling to maintain its infrastructure, and the issues raised by the disaster may be better understood better by people not so close to the scene of the tragedy.
Government officials — including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — treated the collapse as an Act of God best responded to with candle-light vigils and prayers or — later — as the responsibility of long-gone officials who had the bridge built in the 1960s. Virtually ignored was the role of a “no new tax” political strategy advanced by Grover Norquist and national GOP leaders that raised fees on citizens for government services while starving critical programs of the funds needed for safe maintenance. The Retro Report, too, gives that issue scant attention, but it is one that needs to be kept in mind as you watch the video trip into the Wayback Machine — all the way back to 2007.