I thank my colleague, Senator Coleman, for those fine words and his description of the history of the Mississippi River which is such an important part, as he noted, of our state's history.
But for me it is personal. I live only eight blocks from where this bridge buckled under. This is a place where every day I drive with my husband and our 12-year-old daughter.
As I looked down at that bridge, when I stood on the sides and saw that school bus just barely hanging to the side of that falling concrete, I thought of those drivers. I thought of those other moms with their kids in the back seat on that August day, maybe going to the Twins game or driving home from work and never did they expect that a massive eight-lane interstate highway bridge would suddenly buckle to the ground. That's what we saw when we were there this morning.
But the other thing that I saw, that I come back to tell the nation is that there were little miracles every day. The miracle of that school bus, where kids from a very poor neighborhood in Minneapolis were sitting in that bus and somehow were saved.
Acts of heroism. A woman diver that went in and back in and back in without any safety equipment on among the concrete and shards looking for survivors. This was a disaster that no one expected but it was something that our city and our state had planned for.
We learned the lessons from 9/11. We had many practices for these kinds of disasters. I was the former prosecutor for this area and I remember meeting with the sheriff and the police chief and we planned the drills and we went through them and you could see the results today. You could see the lives that were saved.
When we got in today and drove on this highway there were actually billboards, billboards already up telling people how to get around the scene and 24 husbands added to the transit service already at 6:00 a.m. in the morning and advertised so people could get to work. This is going to be a model as we go forward for how to handle national disasters.
The Mississippi River starts in Minnesota. You can walk across it, as Senator Coleman noted. You go down and it gets bigger and bigger and soon it ends, Mr. President, it ends in New Orleans.
I think about what happened today and I think of a bigger and more massive disaster with Katrina, and how that was handled and how people in Washington responded. In some way I think of those people stranded on those routes. I think of the mirror of those people was a reflection of leadership and a lack of leadership. We're not going to let that happen in Minnesota. We know this is not the massive disaster of Katrina but it is a huge mess and it involved a loss of life.
So, we are coming together, bipartisan, with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle -- Senator Reid is fully behind this, Senator Durbin, Senator Schumer, Senator Murray, they all talked to me already this morning. They pledged their support. So, what we have proposed with Senator Coleman, we are working together on this with the Republican leadership, is that we get a bill passed tonight to at least authorize a lifting of the cap so we can move forward with emergency disaster relief.
But I think that this is also a reminder, Mr. President, as we go forward, that we have to invest in our in nation’s -- in our in nation’s infrastructure. We do not know the cause. I learned as a prosecutor you do not come to conclusions unless you know the cause. It is a reminder we need to invest in our long term infrastructure and we need to have the emergency funds in place because a bridge like this in the middle of America shouldn't just fall into a river on an August day.
We need to get to the bottom of this and we will rebuild this bridge and we will rebuild this country. Our prayers are with the families. Our thoughts are with the rescue workers. We thank them for working throughout the night. We thank our hospital personnel and our firefighters and our police officers and the ordinary citizens that were just walking by right in the middle of the University of Minnesota campus and dove into that river to help.
This was a true spirit of Minnesota and the world watched last night. Thank you. I thank my colleagues for their support and all the help they've given us as we move forward. This is going to be a long process. It's not just going to end tonight. Our goal is to get this bridge rebuilt and to get our city moving again.
Thank you very much. I yield the floor.