Ten Years Later: I-40 Bridge Collapse At Webbers Falls
WEBBERS FALLS, Oklahoma - A special ceremony was held Monday morning to observe the I-40 bridge collapse anniversary at Webbers Falls and to remember the 14 people killed that day ten years ago.
On May 25, 2002, a barge on the Arkansas River struck a bridge pier causing a portion of the bridge to collapse into the river.
Some of the family members of those killed in the collapse come to Webbers Falls every single Memorial Day. To them it doesn't seem like ten years since the tragedy, it seems like yesterday.
Memorial Day started with the festive feeling of a weekend holiday picnic on the banks of the Arkansas River. But quickly, it took on the special significance that brought so many to Webbers Falls to mark the anniversary.
Andrew Clements' aunt, Kathy Long, has come from York, Pennsylvania to Webbers Falls every Memorial Day since he died.
"Andy was a very special person, he just loved without limits, he gave without ever expecting anything in return," said Kathy Long.
"Tragedies are going to hit folks, it's how you handle those tragedies," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.
Oklahomans responded in a remarkable way. Construction crews rebuilt one of the most important east-west Interstate highways in 47 days.
And a bond was also built with the victims' families.
"It is very, very inspiring what this town does for the victims' families and the survivors. We come here and we feel the most giant hug," said Kathy Long.
"Like many Oklahoma communities, when tragedy hits, we all put our shoulder to the wheel and we work together and we do the best we can," said Chief Bill John Baker.
On the Arkansas River, protection devices have been strategically installed to make piers less vulnerable to a collision.
Many at Monday's memorial service will never forget that tragic day or the victims' who lost their lives, whose names are now forever etched on a memorial on the river's edge.
Since the I-40 bridge collapse, there are now 70 steel reinforced protection columns on bridge over the Arkansas River. 23 of those columns are on the I-40 bridge.