Student on bus helps victims despite memory loss

Editor’s note: This is the last article in a series that includes the stories of people who experienced the bridge collapse firsthand.

by Mitch Anderson

Jimmy Hanson, psychology Senior

The details surrounding the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse were still hazy for Jimmy Hanson a week after it fell.

“It’s all a bit blurry right now,” he said. “It feels like a dream sometimes, and I’m not sure what parts are a dream and what parts are real.”

Hanson was coming back from a day spent chaperoning children from the Pillsbury United Communities program when the bridge collapsed.

He was sitting in the middle of the bus full of children returning from a field trip to a water park as it crossed the bridge.

Hanson looked up and saw a semi-truck honking its horn and thought it was going to veer over and hit the bus.

“As soon as I heard the semi honk its horn, that’s when the bottom fell out from under us,” he said.

When the bridge collapsed, the bus fell in two stages for a total distance of approximately 30 feet, Hanson said.

During the fall, he hit his chin on the seat in front of him and flew back in the bus, landing on his back and shoulder.

“I got thrown out of my seat, a couple of seats back,” he said. “I thought I had gone unconscious at that point, but people told me as soon as the dust cleared I got up Ö and helped others out.”

He bit his tongue hard enough to make it bleed, chipped some teeth and believes he suffered a concussion, though it has yet to be diagnosed by a doctor.

Hanson said the people in the front of the bus suffered the worst injuries.

“I kind of have a memory of being at the back of the bus and grabbing a couple of kids and setting them down,” he said. “I remember seeing the bus driver’s daughter, and she was like, ‘My mom is still on the bus.’ She said that I ran up and got back on the bus to get her out.”

Others told Hanson he helped clear survivors from the area and carried children to the Red Cross center.

“I remember there were a couple of kids on the ground who were crying and scared,” Hanson said. “I remember going up to them Ö there’s a couple of kids I have inside jokes with, and I tried to make them laugh and feel better.”

Because of his loss of memory, Hanson said he just assumed he was pretty helpless.

“It was a great relief to me to know I hadn’t been a burden when the kids needed help,” he said.

It wasn’t until several hours later that Hanson received medical attention. He had no serious injuries and, after some X-rays, was discharged.

Because his cell phone was broken in the fall and he never registered at the hospital when doctors saw him, some co-workers had no idea he was all right until he showed up for work the next day.

When he checked his voicemail the next day, he had 70 messages from friends and well-wishers who had seen his name on TV.

Hanson said he’s most frustrated with the amount of media attention the bus has gotten.

“There were a lot of other people on that bridge who are a lot worse off than we are,” he said. “We’re all alive; we’re all going to heal. We’re just bumped and bruised, but there were people on that bridge who died.”