Thursday, December 15, 2011

Final Silver Bridge thoughts for 2011

One more Silver Bridge item before day's end. Here's a link to a photo gallery on The Herald-Dispatch web site. When I worked at the H-D before they eliminated my job and sent me packing after 30 years, nine months and 1 day (but who's counting?), I worked with several people who covered the collapse that night and in the days afterward. They told some stories. And on various anniversaries, I talked with people who survived the collapse and some civil defense people who worked the scene.

The collapse was on a Friday night. I remember sitting a stack of corn in the corn crib by our barn on Ohio Route 7 the next day thinking about those events, and the following day my family drove past the site on the Ohio side. The roadway slanted down from the pier into the river. My eyes fixed on the center line going down into the water.

I lived across the Ohio River from a factory where many Ohioans worked. I remember where they parked their cars and whose yard they walked through to take motorboat rides across the Ohio to work. When they got to the other side, a truck from the plant would come to pick them up. And at the end of the shift, the truck would bring them back.

The pickup site on the West Virginia side was at the plant's barge dock. When a barge was at the dock, the motorboats would go around it on the downriver side. One night, a boat went around the barge on the upriver side. My memory is sketchy, but I think the current pulled the boat under the barge, and two or three men drowned. Technically they were not victims of the bridge collapse, but their deaths were connected to it.

And that's about it for this year.

One more thing, as usual. More than one person told me about a reporter from the New York Times who was there the day after the collapse, and he was a world-class jerk, thinking the entire recovery effort should cater to his needs. Dave McGuire, my former editor who was as good an on-the-job teacher as a young reporter could want, told me he was on the Ohio side when this reporter approached an older woman. He asked her if the bridge had ever worried her. She said, yes. The reporter asked if she had ever noticed anything that made her doubt its safety. Yes, she said. The reporter glared at her and asked in an angry voice, "You had reason to believe the bridge was unsafe and you didn't report it?" When he did that, a big brawny local guy got between them and said, "I don't know how you treat women where you come from, but around here we treat them with respect."

And around that time someone from West Virginia got off a boat and asked if that reporter was causing as much trouble on the Ohio side as he had on the other side earlier in the day.

Dave could tell this story a lot better than I ever could. I wish he were around to tell it one more time.

Silver Bridge, part 2

I just put a story on the Silver Bridge collapse and the upcoming book on it on The State Journal web site ... with a photo of Adam standing beside the Silver Bridge model at the Point Pleasant River Museum.

Dec. 15, 1967

Forty-four years ago today, the Silver Bridge linking Point Pleasant, W.Va., with Kanauga, Ohio, collapsed into the Ohio River, taking the lives of 46 people who were on it.

Here is a short piece I wrote about it at my place of former employment.

It's not 6 a.m. yet, and I'm getting the boys ready to get on the school bus in a little bit (it comes at 6:05 to 6:10 a.m.).

The photo is something I just now took of a postcard on my dining room table. The postcard comes from the Point Pleasant River Museum.

More later today, after work. Stay tuned.