Hundreds gather to mourn victims of bridge collapse

By Kelly Kurt Published: May 27, 2003
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WEBBERS FALLS -- Interstate traffic over the Arkansas River went on Monday, even as hundreds stopped on a nearby bank to remember 14 people killed when the same span collapsed a year ago.

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One by one, their names were read: Jeanine Cawley, Andrew Clements, Jerry Gillion, Patricia Gillion, Margaret Green ...

With each name, a bell tolled, sometimes bringing tears from the victims' families, survivors and the rescuers who gathered in a city park where a new memorial stands in view of the rebuilt bridge.

"I think the memorial is beautiful," said Kirk Washburn, who was fishing last Memorial Day weekend when the bridge collapsed, dropping cars and trucks from Interstate 40 like beads from a broken string. "I think it's also hard to come back here."

... James Johnson, Misty Johnson, Shae Johnson, Wayne Martin, Susan Martin, David Mueggenborg, Jean Mueggenborg, Gail Shanahan, Paul Tailele.

Eastbound, westbound. Ten cars, trucks, tractor-trailers, a motor home and a horse trailer plunged into the Arkansas River after a towboat pushing two barges rammed the bridge's support piers.

Kay Wauson came to the dedication of the memorial carrying a large photograph of Shanahan, her sister. It showed Shanahan on horseback, deftly cutting around a barrel.

Horses were the 49-year-old Texan's life, Wauson said. Shanahan was returning home to Texas from a barrel racing competition when truck, trailer and horses reached the bridge just after it fell.

"I've questioned why here, why was she on that bridge at that particular moment?" Wauson said. "I guess you've got to trust in God and get through it."

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