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Collapse of 35W Bridge Left Mark on Former Plymouth Resident, Survivor

Now a St. Michael mom, former Plymouth resident Alicia Babatz was on the span when it fell. She, like so many others that day, thought she was going to die.

Twenty-two year old Alicia Babatz didn't even realize she was on a bridge on Aug. 1, 2007 as she drove to pick up her 2-year-old daughter after work. Traffic was stopped and midcommute, and she was in the middle of a jam. Plymouth, her home, seemed a long way away. 

Suddnely, she saw the cars ahead of her start going down as the Interstate 35W bridge swayed, and collapsed. Soon after, that "rollercoaster" feeling hit her, and the road under her gave way. 

"I thought, 'This is it. I'm going to die,'" Babatz said.

She banged around in her car, and the next thing she remembers is waking up underwater in a car fully submerged.

"It was terrifying," she said. "Some people say their lives flash before their eyes but for me it was thinking of my daughter not having her mom and my fiancé." 

Babatz felt her way out of the car through a broken driver side window, and painfully tried to swim to safety not knowing how many others there were.

"It was really hard to swim because I had such pain in my back and hip," she said. Babatz also had a significant seatbelt burn across her chest as well.

She made it to shore, where strangers walking to the Minnesota Twins game-turned Good Samaritans offered her candy. Others offered her the use of their cell phone to call family and her fiance'. Another kind stranger waited with her, talking to Babatz to keep her awake until First Responders could get to her and get her to the hospital.

"There were so many heroes on that day that we'll never know," then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty would say later. "People just passing by who rushed into action."

Babatz was taken to Fairview University Hospital and treated for her injuries. But that was just the beginning of recovery.

Babatz went through extensive physical therapy, and was eventually determined mostly healed. To this day, however, she has pain when walking long stretches.

And while some of her post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are at bay, there are still terrifying days and moments.

"It's the possibility of anything happening at any time that is terrifying to me," she said noting fear at concerts, storms and when hearing loud bass.

Close to a year after the bridge collapse, Babatz and her husband, Randall, moved to St. Michael where she opened an in-home daycare. Now 26, Alicia's family has added two more daughters.

"I've kind of moved on and accepted what happened and where it's put me. I get to be home with my kids," she said.

One of the hardest part of her ordeal though continues to haunt her.

"There were 13 people that died that day and nine of them were in the water like I was. Why didn't I see anyone around me? Why did I survive? I consider it a miracle and nothing else" Babatz said.

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