I was a young girl back on December 15,1967 when at approximately 5 p.m., the U.S. Highway 35 bridge connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Kanauga, Ohio suddenly collapsed into the Ohio River. At the time of failure, thirty- seven vehicles were crossing the bridge span, and thirty-one of those automobiles fell with the bridge. Forty- six individuals perished with the buckling of the bridge and nine were seriously injured. The bridge was dubbed the 'Silver Bridge' because it was the country's first aluminum painted bridge. It had stood for almost 40 years. Many people were out buying Christmas trees, enjoying the holiday season, unaware of the disaster, until they heard the sound. Some individuals said, 'the sound of the collapse was like that of a shotgun." For those who saw the bridge collapse, they said, "it looked like the bridge fell like a card deck."
The cause of failure was attributed to a cleavage fracture in the lower limb of eye-bar 330 at joint C13N of the north eye-bar suspension chain in the Ohio side span." The fracture was caused from a minute crack formed during the casting of the steel eye-bar. Inspection prior to construction would not have been able to notice the miniature crack. Over the life span of the bridge, the only way to detect the fracture would have been to disassemble the eye-bar. The technology used for inspection at the time was not capable of detecting such cracks.
My photos are of the Memorial Silver Bridge that replaced the collapsed span. I have crossed it twice in the past couple of months and each time I felt an unexplainable eeriness pass over me. I suppose watching it unfold all those years ago on our tiny TV set is still ingrained in memory and still elicits helplessness at such tragedy.
As with any tragedy life goes on. This is evident of the bridge traffic that crosses daily and of the river traffic underneath such as the tug moving barges on the day we visited the nearby park overlooking the bridge.
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