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Bridges Connect Us (3.27.24)

If there is anything we know about in the Ohio Valley Area it is bridges.  We just celebrated the opening of a new bridge in the Wellsburg area, connecting parts of West Virginia with parts of Ohio.  Trips that used to take 30 to 45 minutes are now taking 5 to 10 minutes.  Hopefully, businesses on both sides of the river are benefiting from the bridge.  I remember being there the day they floated the bridge down the river to its present location.  It was amazing to watch. You cannot go to Pittsburgh, PA without encountering a number of bridges. 

We are still recovering from some of the local bridges that have closed, making our lives a little more challenging and time more precious.  I am told that one of the bridges in Wheeling, WV has a relationship or a connection to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was completed in 1849.  History says it was the first bridge across the Ohio River and for almost 20 years it was the world’s longest suspension bridge.  If nothing else it is still considered the nation’s oldest suspension bridge.

No wonder time seemed to stop, when the news broke that a bridge in the Baltimore Area had collapsed.  We did not know, at first, if it was a bomb, a terrorist act, intentional or an accident. How surprised we were to find out that a ship the size of the Empire State Building lost power, maybe bad gas or oil, and floated into one of the major pillars that brought down the whole bridge.

Personally, I never thought until recently what it takes to build, maintain, or engineer a bridge.  The truth is, it is amazing the planning that must go into building a bridge that is naturally separate, and almost make a connection that defies nature.  Yet, bridges have been around it seems like forever, taking to sides of the river normally and helping it connect over water. It became even more personal to me when my youngest son, who recently became a truck driver, told me he had crossed that bridge the night before.

As many of us know by now a cargo ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at approximately 1:30am.  Sadly, several vehicles fell on the ship or into the water. It is my understanding that several workers were on the bridge filling pot holes at the time, that is reported to have lost their lives.  Great honor must be given to the police and the 1st responders who in less than a minute after receiving mayday call from the ship, shut down traffic on both sides of the bridge, saving perhaps 100’s of lives.

It is said that the bridge is 1.6 miles long on the I-695 beltway that crosses the Patapsco River.  This is the river where Francis Scott Key was said to have been inspired to write the words of United States National Anthem, better known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” way back in 1814.

The story goes back in September of 1814 after a full day of shooting and bombing each other between the British and the Americans at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, Mr. Key is said to have watched the American soldiers raise the U.S. flag over the fort in the middle of the battle as if to say, “it is not over until we win!” The song was originally called, “The Defense of Fort M’Henry” that was set to the music of an existing song at the time called, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” and in 1931 officially became the U.S. National Anthem.

The whole purpose of the bridge was to give better access to the Baltimore Harbor.  They started working on it in 1972 and ended in 1977. Everything continued until the container ship Dali, a Singapore ship hit the bridge.

They say there are a number of reasons bridges fail; majority of times it is not a singular event.  Usually, it is a number of things that go wrong at the same time. It could be an earthquake, fire, a train crash, sometimes a flood, construction accidents, manufacturing defect, design defect, bad maintenance, a freak accident, or boat crashes. That’s just some of the reasons they fail.  I am not sure how many reasons apply to this particular event. From my limited research we have come to learn that there are over 617,000 bridges in the United States alone.  The oldest bridge, still in use today, is the U.S. Route 13, also known as the Pennypack Creek Bridge, some called it the King’s Highway Bridge, built in 1697, outside of the Philadelphia, PA area.

One of the deadliest bridge failures was the Silver Bridge between Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio on December 15, 1967 during rush hour where 46 people died and others injured. A plaque at the site says, a year after this collapse of this bridge in West Virginia, Congress passed the national bridge inspection standards.  Those inspections may have prevented many other bridge failures.

The 5 most well-known bridges are the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan, New York; The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California; New River Gorge Bridge, Summers County, West Virginia; Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Tampa Bay, Florida; and the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, New York.  

We need bridges, not just natural, all through our life. Education can be a bridge to career success, parents can be a bridge to a child’s success, that child may grow up to be a bridge to the parents’ success, a doctor or hospital can be a bridge to health, the right politicians can be a bridge to governmental success for a community, and police can be a bridge to safety.  The list can go on and on.

During this Easter time I want to introduce you to another bridge that has helped me cross over many dangers, seen and unseen.  I have had to inspect my connection to the bridge several times.  The bridge has never collapsed in 1,000 of years, but the on ramp has been shaken a number of times.  It is said, if you can believe, this bridge can get you to some wonderful places, times, and experiences.  Check out a church this Easter and find this bridge.  Happy Easter!