MINNEAPOLIS - We all remember where we were when the 35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River five years ago. Those of us who watched the images can now use those years to distance ourselves from the pain we felt that day, but for those who lived it, it's a very different story.
"It's surreal," says Justin Mishler as he points to his name carved in the memorial wall that now stands over the river.
Justin still after all these years finds it hard to believe that he was a part of what happened that day. He was on his way home from work when he just nearly made it to the north side of the span.
"I hung up my phone and I threw it in the cup holder and almost immediately, the bridge began to shake," he recalls.
He survived the collapse with a compression fracture as a physical reminder, but it's not the thing that sticks with him. Justin, a normally positive guy, was for the first time in his life, hit hard with the emotions of what he'd been through. He suffered from PTSD, depression and still struggles with survivor's guilt.
"I feel horribly guilty that I'm able to enjoy my life, while so many others are coming down here and looking at a pillar rather than spending it with their family, and I think that's unfortunate," he says.
He says it doesn't get to him all the time, but it's certainly worse around the anniversary. And, he says, small things can make him sad or reflective, such as the hot weather we've been having since it was similar to the day of the collapse.
He's not one to go to all the ceremonies but does take the day off every year to spend it with his wife. He says he does it not only to be thankful for what he has but to honor what was taken away from 13 others.
"I almost exited on 3rd street to go to the Town Hall Brewery and I didn't. So, every year we cherish life and take a trip to the Town Hall Brewery and have lunch and enjoy our time together," he says getting choked up.
Mishler says he plans to mark the occasion, in his way, every year for himself and those no longer with us.
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