“And You Wonder Why I Freak Out”
By Beverly Hicks Burch
Last night, about 7:00 PM I came very close to reaching critical mass with a panic attack. I had just finished watching some of my favorite Tivoed HGTV shows and when I had watched and deleted the last one, live TV flashed back up on my screen. There was a 24 hour news station on and I could tell immediately a major event was unfolding.
Pretty quickly I was able to ascertain a major bridge had collapsed somewhere…it actually looked as if an earthquake had taken place. But, the more I listened, I discovered that, no, indeed in appeared the bridged had just collapsed…and there my friends is the beginning of my dismay. Then I heard where the collapsed bridge took place…Minneapolis!
You see, my sister-in- law…yes, Tall and Handsome’s sister, and her husband live in Rochester, MN. They go to Minneapolis quite often to visit their adorable, sweet, cute, funny twin daughters (Hey, girls!) who live and work in The Cities. Add to that mix, T & H is out of town on business this week and was in a business dinner at the time of my discovery.
Times like this, the cat and dog fail to comprehend the severity of the situation and their mom’s angst. The cat just continues to lick his butt and Watson just runs around with his stuffed, plush goose in his mouth making it go “honk-honk” and looking like he has mumps because the goose is so close in color to him. I’m feeling like the only sane inmate in the asylum…
I have to admit there is something deeper here at work.
Hello, my name is Bev…and I have a phobia of bridges. At times it can be a crippling factor in my life. I know exactly when the phobia developed…December 15, 1967.
December 15, 1967 was the day the Silver Bridge collapsed and fell into the Ohio River, taking with it 46 souls 10 short days before Christmas that year. It was an event a 13 year old girl would never forget. Up until that day, I had never given bridges much thought, but when it collapsed, it seemed inconceivable to me that an engineering marvel such as a bridge could be so unreliable. It was especially cruel that these lives had been yanked from loved ones at such a joyous time of the year.
A couple of years later, my family went to visit relatives who just happened to be living in Ohio at the time. They lived in a little river town called New Matamoras. My kin folk’s very large back yard ran down to the banks of the Ohio River. As fate would have it, not too far from where they lived was a “sister” bridge of the Silver Bridge. We all drove over to see this tainted bridge, because it too had been found flawed after the collapse of the Silver Bridge and was closed and barricaded off to traffic. Somewhere in my packed boxes of mementoes I have faded snapshots of this bridge and of the spots where the weakness and failures were found. I felt very eerie and uncomfortable that day walking around on that ghost bridge, wondering if it would “give” at any moment. Obviously it didn’t, because here I am…
That incident started a phobia that has lasted until this day. Every bridge I’ve crossed…and I’ve crossed many both literally and figuratively…has brought a certain level of angst. There has the George Washington Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge (which after the collapse of the I-35W bridge New York official said was in “poor condition”), Tappan Zee…an impossibly long bridge in my book…and countless other bridges…both named and no named…including the one that fell on August 1, 2007 in Minneapolis. I have even been stuck in traffic on bridges in situations just like prior to the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. I’ve crossed creeks, rivers, land, railroad tracks, bays, ravines and canyons and each time wondered about the integrity and strength of the structure I was on. And every time it was panic attack time for me…some I handled better than others.
They say ignorance is bliss (and I’ve see a lot of blistered folks walking around let me tell you), but my need for knowledge has lead me to know the facts. What I found out a long time ago was ugly: The bridges in our country are not safe. Many, about 25% 0r 70,000 to 80,000 bridges are old and in need of repair and funds are often non-existent…often high-jacked for lame pork barrel projects. Let me ask you: Would you rather your tax dollar go toward keeping our bridges safe and preventing further disasters like the I-35W collapse or toward studying the sex life of frogs? Furthermore, it is beyond criminal when we see government officials divert government funds into their own pockets and the pockets of family members when we have public safety issues like this at stake. In that case, way too many inmates are running the asylum to paraphrase an old phrase.
My heart goes out to the survivors and the families of the victims of the I-35W collapse. This will be an event long time in healing for these people. The children have a lot to deal with…they lived through the disaster…and I know what just witnessing the Silver Bridge collapse on national TV did to a 13 year old girl.
For a nation that has put a man on the moon, it unconscionable that we are unable to drive over a bridge without concern for the safety of the structure. Something needs to been done…this should never be repeated…
Oh, by the way, the sister-in-law and the twins are fine…
Other bridge disasters:
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.