It was business as usual for Larry Desantis as he made his daily commute over the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

He clocked out from his bakery job in Pasadena at 1:18 a.m. Tuesday and drove to Herman’s Bakery in Dundalk where he is the head baker.

While on the bridge, he slowed down to watch out for the highway workers, heavily focused on staying in between the construction cones.

As he drove, he didn’t notice a ship veering toward the bridge, and he didn’t notice the black smoke billowing out of it.

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He made it off the bridge around 1:27 a.m., and about a minute later, the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed behind him after the Dali cargo ship ran into it.

Desantis said he didn’t hear the boom of the bridge crashing down because he had a SiriusXM radio channel playing, although he said he thought it was odd that the road was empty. Especially because Amazon has a large distribution center nearby.

“I didn’t even know anything was going on, but it was just really eerie when I got off of the bridge and there was nothing [behind me],” Desantis said. “Because with Amazon there, I’ll see 20 Amazon trucks every morning. I don’t care what day of the week it is. Nothing. There was absolutely nothing.”

It wasn’t until around 1:30 a.m. when he got a call from someone at his Pasadena job who made sure he was OK that he even realized the bridge collapsed.

“I think about it, I might not be here now if I had been just a little bit later,” he said. “Just a minute would’ve changed everything. It’s scary, you know.”

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Even a Maryland Transportation Authority Police detective called him to make sure he made it over the bridge. Desantis said he wasn’t sure how they got his number, but he thinks probably through his license plate, which they saw on toll videos.

“A detective called to make sure because I guess they checked the last people that were on the bridge to find out if I was in the water or not,” Desantis said. “They just wanted to know how many people they had to look for. That’s what he told me.”

MDTA Police could not be reached for comment.

Larry Desantis prepares baked goods inside of Herman's Bakery, in Dundalk on March 28, 2024.
Larry Desantis prepares baked goods inside of Herman’s Bakery, in Dundalk on March 28, 2024. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

While Desantis was at the bakery safe and sound working, his co-worker woke up in a panic.

Around 4 a.m., Deborah Allen snapped awake when she heard three words on the TV: Key. Bridge. Collapsed.

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“Oh my God. Larry,” Allen said, thinking about her colleague and friend she’d known since she was 19.

She knew his commute schedule, along with her other colleagues at the bakery.

“I knew that’s what time he was coming,” Allen said. “I knew he’d be crossing, and I panicked.”

In a frenzy, she called her other colleague, Adrienne Porcella, several times, only to get voicemail.

Then she tried Porcella’s mother, who answered.

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“‘You got to do something,’” Allen told her. “‘I don’t know what to do.’”

Relief washed over Allen when she finally got word from Porcella that Desantis was at Herman’s. He clocked in at 1:43 a.m.

Allen can count the number of times she’s driven over the Key Bridge on one hand. She’s deathly afraid of bridges and said she will likely never drive over one again.

Despite his brush with death, Desantis has gone into work each day since the bridge collapse. Now, his commute on an alternative route takes close to an hour, whereas before it was 20 minutes, he said.

While he said it took some time for his feelings to really sink in that he could’ve died on the bridge, he’s seen how his experience immediately affected his family and friends.

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Desantis, Allen and Porcella have worked at Herman’s Bakery for decades. Porcella’s grandfather opened the bakery 100 years ago last year.

With hundreds of handmade goods baked daily, Herman’s is easily a Dundalk landmark.

And from Dundalk, the Key Bridge was the landmark that residents knew, loved and couldn’t picture the skyline without.

Desantis said he remembers the skyline without the Key Bridge, remembers it being built and he never would have thought that he would be one of the last people to have the memory of driving over it.

Correction: This story’s photo captions have been updated to correct when Larry Desantis was photographed.

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