I-35W bridge collapse first responders honored in 10th anniversary tribute

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The first responders of the I-35W bridge collapse received a special tribute in honor of the 10th anniversary of the tragic event.

Ten years ago, Brian Bennett and Noah Gottesman were among 17 Navy divers deployed to the I-35W bridge collapse.

They each completed about a dozen dives in the Mississippi River as part of a 20-day search for 13 victims.

Their memories remain vivid even after a decade.

“Absolutely, I can remember every last dive and everything I accomplished underwater,” said Bennett.

“I remember the dives I made, interactions with the debris and everything else we encountered,” said Gottesman.

The pair is in the Twin Cities for Navy Week as part of an outreach tour of 15 cities. It seemed fitting to honor the 10-year anniversary two weeks early by taking them out on the river.

“It was unlike anything we've ever seen and hopefully unlike anything we're ever going to experience again,” said Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Before hitting the water, law enforcement leaders and Navy officials attended a ceremony to honor and thank all the first responders who played a part.

“Police, fire, paramedics, from ten different counties swarmed the site,” said Rear Admiral Fritz Roegge. “Everyday Minnesotans, normal passers-by, helped where they could to rescue 93 people.”

“But we will never ever forget those 13 families, extended families, who lost their loved ones,” said Stanek.

It was for those 13 that Bennett and Gottesman had the honor of laying a wreath in the water at the spot of their heart-breaking work.

Ten years later, the bridge looks nothing like those forever-etched memories.

“Almost had a hard time finding the new bridge because I didn't recognize it at first, but then I found the memorial and walked past the new bridge and recognized where I was at and was in amazement,” said Bennett.