But for three hiatuses for school, I’ve lived my whole life in the Twin Cities, and my heritage and skin tone match the Lake Wobegon image of my city and state. I’m the descendant of German, Norwegian, Welsh, and British immigrants. I’ve even been known to utter “you betcha” on occasion. But the new faces of Minnesota have been on display in the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse on August 1.
Yesterday, nearly three weeks after the collapse, the remains of the final victim, Greg Jolstad, were recovered. The list of victims tells a tale of today’s Minnesota. There’s the very Scandinavian last name Engebretsen, which belonged to a middle-aged mom who worked for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. But alongside the victims who were of Northern European descent (Hausmann, Holmes, Sathers, and Eickstadt) are surnames from around the globe: Trinidad-Mena (Mexican), Sacorafas (Greek), Sahal (Somalian), Peck and Chit (Asian), as well as Native American: Blackhawk (Winnebago).
They were white-collar and blue-collar, Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim, married dads, and single moms. The oldest was 60, the youngest was 2. One was pregnant. One had Down syndrome.
Their pictures are a mosaic of diversity.
Pollsters tell us that our quaint land here in the Upper Midwest is changing, that immigration is reshaping Lake Wobegon. But in the information age, those macro-polls are often lost on us.
However, when a bridge collapses during rush hour, it takes a tragic snapshot of just who lives around us.
“Who is my neighbor?” a questioner asked Jesus.
The bridge collapse gave me a new answer to that question.
Tony Jones is the national coordinator for Emergent Village.