Alexander Luzula | Staff Writer
Students, faculty, administration and community members gathered March 15 to observe the fifth anniversary of the fatal 8th Street bridge collapse.
At 1:40 p.m., the FIU community gathered at the Alexa M. Duran Memorial Plaza outside the Green Library, where President Jessell met with the family of Duran and spoke with FIU community members, as well as with the press gathered at the event. At 1:47, a moment of silence was held as a bell was rung six times, to honor the six victims at the exact time of the bridge collapsing.
“This is obviously a very sad day. We want to give tribute to the six individuals who passed away five years ago today,” said FIU President Kenneth Jessell. “[Alexa Duran’s] statue is here as a student and a member of the FIU community, and the lights behind the statue represent the other five individuals who lost their lives.”
The bridge, which was under construction to separate pedestrian and car traffic, collapsed in 2018. Located just outside the main FIU entrance and spanning the width of 8th Street, the accident claimed the lives of six victims: Alexa Duran, 18; Navaro Brown, 37; Brandon Brownfield, 39; Alberto Arias, 53; Oswaldo Gonzalez, 57; and Rolando Fraga, 60.
It collapsed after using “accelerated” methods for construction, as well as using a concrete design that was considered cutting-edge at the time.
Gina Duran, Alexa Duran’s mother, feels that although she has managed to process the loss of her daughter and cope with the grief, the loss she has faced has changed her.
“Little by little it goes down,” said Duran. “But it’s a big thing that happened. My daughter was 18, she just started going to school. When they called me for this, and now, five years later, I still have that hurt inside of me, it doesn’t go away.”
“At the beginning, I couldn’t sleep, two and a half years, now I’m better. Five years passed but you’re not the same.”
FIU, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Sweetwater and the Federal Highway Administration, is currently planning to build another bridge for pedestrian crossing by the 8th Street main entrance, and expects to begin construction by the end of 2023, if not the beginning of 2024.
President Jessell also assured the press that greater safety precautions, including road closures between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., will be undertaken to prevent another tragedy.
“We are working very, very closely with the Florida Department of Transportation that is doing the project,” said Jessell. “Anything related to the bridge and construction over the road will require complete lane closures and detours.”