I-35W bridge memorial repairs begin after vandalism

Workers begin the reinstallation of the phrase, letter by letter.

Workers begin the reinstallation of the phrase, letter by letter.

Over a month after vandals ruined the main component of the I-35W bridge memorial, repairs finally began this morning.

Workers from the architecture firm that designed the memorial and a sign-installing contractor will spend most of today carefully re-aligning the stainless steel letters, 22 of which went missing in August. They're trying a few new tricks to prevent this kind of theft from happening again. [jump]

On the fourth anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse tragedy, families of the 13 victims delivered short dedications for their loved ones at the unveiling of the memorial. Each victim has their name inscribed on a pillar, and a black granite wall behind them is engraved with the names of the 171 survivors. Above the names, a phrase was spelled out in stainless steel letters:

Our lives are not only defined by what happens, but by how we act in the face of it, not only by what life brings us, but by what we bring to life. Selfless actions and compassion create enduring community out of tragic events.
Then two short days later, someone under cover of darkness pried 22 letters off the wall and made off with them, leaving no trace. No one has been arrested in the case, and while many have tried to solve the mystery by rearranging the letters, so far there has been no smoking gun anagram.

Tadd Kreun from the architecture firm Oslund and Associates was on-hand to help with the installation, and says they've made a few changes this time. The letters will be installed with thicker backing pins and an even stronger adhesive will hold them in place.

"People thought we didn't think about vandalism, but we definitely talked about it," he says. "The option we used previously protected the integrity of the wall."

If vandals were to try again, he says, the granite wall would be much more likely to crack. But it would slow them down substantially.

"It takes an incredible amount of force to get these off," he says. "They can try."

Workers hope to have the letters back up and the fountain turned on by the end of the day.

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