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Matthew Miller

Page history last edited by Steve Escher 15 years, 2 months ago

Matthew Miller- Bridge Collapse Hero


On August 1, 2007, Matthew Miller of Fridley, Minnesota, was a 21-year old college student working a summer job in construction. He was one of the hundreds of people either working on, traveling on, or nearby the bridge when it collapsed. (1)


He says he neither heard nor saw the bridge collapse (he had his back to it at the time it collapsed) but noticed something was wrong when the traffic stopped moving. He turned around to see only smoke and dust and realized something was seriously wrong. He ran to the edge of one of the collapsed sections to help coworkers up the concrete embankment. He then ran down the embankment to the railroad tracks where he helped a severely shaken family of four. In an interview with Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Miller reported: (1)


“I helped a dad, a mom and two daughters. The girls were in high school. The father was in shock. He didn't say a word. His two girls were screaming, and he didn't respond to his daughters, so I knew there was something real wrong with him. The mother was unconscious. Her eyes were rolling in back of her head. It was total chaos.” (1)


After assisting the family, Miller moved to the waters edge where he assisted Coast Guard crews which were removing people and stretchers from the water. Miller estimates that he helped between 8 and 10 people reach safety immediately following the bridge collapse. (1)


Matthew Miller has been recognized for his contributions and has been labeled a hero. On Tuesday, March 25, 2007 he received the Above & Beyond Citizen Honor Medal at Arlington National Cemetery. The award was presented to him by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Several noteworthy individuals were present at the ceremony including 34 recipients of the Medal of Honor, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and news anchor Brian Williams of NBC. (1,2) The following is a passage from the the Above & Beyond website:


"Matthew Miller of Fridley, Minnesota, for going above and beyond with his courageous rescue of survivors of a bridge collapse. On August 1, 2007, Miller, a college senior, was part of a summer construction crew working on the 35W bridge in Minneapolis when on his way to work he watched in horror as the bridge buckled and collapsed. Ignoring his own safety, Miller climbed down into the wreckage to look for survivors. Trained in first aid, he helped four injured co-workers get to a place of safety before following cries for help from the riverbank. Rappelling down a cliff, Miller pulled eight people out of their smashed cars and the river that day and stayed long after the first respondents left, making repeat trips to look for more survivors. Later that night, an exhausted Miller helped load people onto Coast Guard boats and drove the injured to the hospital in a company truck that he had turned into a makeshift ambulance. Miller’s selfless actions that day resulted in more than ten lives being saved." (3)


Miller was also given the honor of throwing the opening pitch at the Twins season opener on March 31, 2007. He received a standing ovation from the crowd and a hug from Twins General Manager Ron Gardenhire. (1,2)


Matthew Miller is 22-years old now and a senior at Bethel University. He has gone back to work on bridges to pay for college but says they still make him nervous - particularly the long ones. He will be graduating in May, 2008 with a double major in physical education and health education and minor in athletic coaching. He hopes to receive a teaching or health-related position in Minnesota upon graduating. (1,2)


Miller told Conrad Wilson of the Star Tribune: “It's overwhelming to be surrounded by all these men of courage. ... I give all the credit to God, because without him I wouldn't have been able to react down at the bridge.” (2)


A full interview with Matthew Miller can be obtained through the St. Paul Pioneer Press Archives.


Other Heroes


Along with the immediate support provided by rescue workers and citizens such as Matthew Miller, many members of the community banded together to raise money and support for the victims following the bridge collapse. Many of the charity events listed on this page gave all of the proceeds to Minnesota Helps. Segments of the musical, athletic, and religious communities all provided valuable support to those affected by the bridge collapse.




Matthew Miller's story is just one example. There are many other undocumented hereos who risked their lives to help the victims of the bridge collapse. The above picture is rescue workers on the wreckage following the collapse. Photo courtesy of eb78 on Flickr.




1. Sansevere, Bob. __When the Bridge Went Down, 'I Had a Chance to Serve'__. March 31, 2008. St. Paul Pioneer Press.


2. Wilson, Conrad. __I-35W Bridge Hero Honored__. March 25, 2008. Star Tribune.


3. Above & Beyond. __Matthew Miller__. Retrieved April 12, 2008. Above & Beyond.


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