I’ve fallen in love again.
Did you know that the chief engineer of the bridge, Washington Roebling was crippled by a bad case of the bends while working on the bridge in its early stages, living the rest of his life as an invalid? That his incapacitation meant that most of the legwork in supervising the construction of the bridge was actually undertaken by his wife, Emily?
The bridge is a purposeful piece of art that stands as a memorial to a million stories. Lives large and small were lived in the birth of the bridge and are lived every day moving to and fro across it.
There was a quote from Roebling in the Ken Burns documentary I watched that gave me this bridge fever. I can’t recall it exactly and haven’t been able to find it anywhere in a cursory online search. But the gist of the quote was that even though his crippled body was incapable of doing much, Roebling’s mind was able to dream up marvels that could keep thousands busy and change the course of the world. It sort of hit me where I live in this place I was whining about on Friday.
That bridge is a piece of ordinary magic that we don’t see much of anymore. It was born out of a need to get people from one side of the water to the other. That’s a common need, ages old and continuously met time and again with the most pedestrian (heh) of forms. But this one time a man decided that instead of just doing the job he would do it both well and beautifully. John Roebling, Washington’s father, designed a temple to the joining of people, to the coming and going, to the art of commerce and journeying. It is a temple open seven days a week, open to all comers. A cathedral that does not discriminate against creed or colour or circumstance.
It is determination, grace, substance and utility. The best parts of America and the best parts of Americans.