The beginnings of a memorial to the six people who died in the collapse of a bridge at Florida International University appeared Sunday — a single bouquet of flowers and six small wooden crosses on cords hung from a wall and held in place by pieces of rubble.
The impromptu memorial is sure to grow as FIU students return to school from spring break Monday, the first day of classes since the bridge crashed on Thursday. Members of the college community and of the public will be asked to pause at 1:47 p.m. to mark the moment the pedestrian bridge collapsed last week, killing six people and injuring at least nine more.
“It’s going to take time for us and our community to heal,” President Mark Rosenberg said in a video shared Sunday afternoon. “Please join us wherever you are and keep the victims and the families in your thoughts.”
A vigil is scheduled Wednesday on campus.
Also on Sunday, the final victim, Brandon Brownfield, was identified, hours after the last body was removed from under the bridge. Previously, authorities identified the five other people who were killed when the bridge fell on top of cars stopped at a red light: Alexa Duran, the only FIU student who was killed; Navaro Brown, a bridge worker; Osvaldo (Ozzie) González; Alberto Arias; and Rolando Fraga.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board continued gathering evidence, but said they don’t anticipate holding any more news briefings as they enter the next phase of their work, analyzing the evidence at a remote location.
By Sunday afternoon, most of the rubble had been cleared from the south side of Southwest Eighth Street. The north end of the bridge remained in the street, a pickup crushed beneath it, the bodies already removed.
The Florida Highway Patrol said that for now, the street will remain closed, but a meeting was scheduled for Monday to discuss when it might reopen.
Meanwhile, FIU prepared for the resumption of classes with a news release that said “While operationally Monday will be a regular day at FIU, life on [the Modesto A. Maidique Campus] will be far from normal.”
These are some things students should keep in mind as they head to campus, FIU says:
▪ Southwest Eighth Street will be closed from 107th Avenue to 117th Avenue indefinitely. All Eighth Street entrances to the university will be closed. The only access points to campus are on the east and west sides.
▪ The eastbound exits from Florida’s Turnpike are closed. Use Southwest 40th Street or Northwest 12th Street exits.
▪ The Florida Highway Patrol says there will be traffic route patterns, digital signs throughout the surrounding area and additional troopers in the area to assist with detours.
▪ All parking lots and garages are open, except for Lot 5
▪ Allow additional time for travel and carpool whenever possible. The university suggests using RideFlag, a carpooling app that can help you find a ride with other Panthers who live nearby.
▪ Commuters are encouraged to use the FIU mobile app for garage parking space availability.
▪ CATS shuttles will have a temporary new route. The 109th Tower and Fourth Street Commons shuttles will run 24 hours a day until further notice. Additional shuttles will run directly from 109th Tower and Fourth Street Commons to Lot 3.
Students are still trying to grapple with tragedy while figuring out how they will get to school Monday.
“I took a jog underneath it the night before. I drove under it that morning. It could have been me. It could have been any of us. And now we have to go back to class?” said Jasmine Morales, 26. “I don’t even know where to park. Streets are closed. There are inconvenient detours. It just sounds like it’s going to be a huge mess.”
FIU will also continue to offer support to students through the Counseling and Psychological Services.
The school has also put together a few options for those wanting to help. A blood drive will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday in Lot 33 (adjacent to the Graham Center Ballrooms).
On Wednesday, the Student Government Association will hold a vigil in the Graham Center ballrooms for the victims. Flowers or other items in remembrance of the victims can be left near the billboards located on Southwest 107th Avenue and Eighth Street, a different location from where the unofficial memorial was started Sunday.
Rosenberg said the university has “a sense of urgency about getting to the bottom of this accident and we are cooperating with authorities.”
“Right now our focus is on the victim’s families and doing everything in our power to comfort and support them,” he said.
The students too, are shaken, and wondering how classes can resume after the tragedy.
John Hernandez, 22, said “It’s going to be hell” to get to school Monday because of the road closures. “There is something in the air that says something is not right.”
“I don’t really know what to expect going back to school tomorrow, other than knowing I learned very quickly that life is so fragile and temporary,” he said.