A First Responder Recalls Collapse

Jay Reeves
CBS/The Early Show
As helicopters soared above the wreckage of the I-35W bridge, one thing jumped out at everyone surveying the aftermath of the collapse: a yellow school bus poised precariously at the edge of one of the fallen sections.

The sight of the bus immediately caught the attention of Jay Reeves, who had been headed home on one of the roads that runs parallel to the span. After he recovered from the initial shock of the collapse, just 100 yards from his car, Reeves sprang into action.

Reeves, who works as the Emergency Medical Service chief for the American Red Cross Twin Cities chapter, was able to help several kids who were trapped on the bus.

At first, he told The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, "I kind of had a feeling of disbelief. And then, when I eventually got myself to understand what was going on, I immediately tried to call 911" to get help.

As his extensive emergency training kicked in, "I tried to just set myself in a safe position so that I could begin to render aid," Reeves said.

"There were already several gentlemen that were pulling people off the bus. I'm a trained paramedic. Our training tells us that if we get hurt, someone has to come take care of us. So I hung back a little bit."

Reeves' first concern was to clear the area, he said. "There were people looking underneath the bridge and I was yelling at them to get away from underneath the bridge. Even if you hear someone calling for help, that's more than you can do. And people understood that. They followed my directions at that point."

His second priority was to make sure the children were safe. "We started to pull the children off the bus and I assisted in bringing the kids down. It was just over my head. I'm 6-3. So I would say they were probably eight feet off the surface where I was."

According to Reeves, the children seemed to range in age from 8 to 12 years old. "They were scared. They were frightened. They were screaming. There were calls for moms and dads. Pretty much what I think anybody would expect their child to do," he recalled.

He had the children leave the area as quickly as possible. "At the time when I first got there, literally the dust hadn't settled yet," said Reeves. "So the bridge was still making kind of a moaning noise. I don't know if that was vehicles or part of the bridge structure, but I was afraid there was going to be an even more complete collapse."

Despite the chaotic scene, "I was mainly concerned with evacuating these people from the area so that we didn't wind up with more critical casualties."