Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Bridge

Whenever I think of the emotional pain New Yorkers went through when the twin towers came down, I have to think of how I would feel if one of those bombs from N. Korea took out the Golden Gate Bridge.
I only lived in San Francisco for 18 years, the first 18 years of my life, but still think of the City as "home" and one of my favorite things is going up on some hill and looking at a view of the bay, with the bridge stretching across to Marin County.  I'm a bigger tourist than the tourists I take to view the City.  It would take a piece of my heart if the bridge were to be destroyed.

The two San Francisco bridges were built at the same time in 1937 and two of my uncles worked on both of them.

(no, those aren't my uncles! ... that I know of ...)
Strong winds come through the golden gate and workers were constantly buffeted by high winds and were in constant fear of plummeting to their deaths.

Here are some stats:
*The bridge is 8,981 feet long (1.7 miles) and contains about 88,000 tons of steel.
*The total weight of the bridge is 887,000 tons.
*There are two towers that hold up the two steel cables anchoring the bridge. Also, there are approximately 80,000 miles of wire inside each of the two steel cables.
*The towers stand 726 feet above the water and 500 feet above street level. They weigh 44,000 tons each and are 4,200 feet apart from each other.
*The bridge is 90 feet wide. There are six driving lanes and two sidewalks. The width of the driving lanes is 62 feet between curbs and the sidewalks are 10 feet each. Street level is about 220 feet above the water.
The bridge opened in May (and the first suicide off the bridge was in August of that year!  As of 2012, 16,000 people had jumped off the bridge, only 25 of whom survived.).  

My father and grandfather were among the pedestrians who walked across the bridge that first day.

I remember when I was a kid, the toll to cross the bridge was 25 cents.  I just learned that the latest raise in toll will bring the cost to cross this bridge to $9.

The 50th anniversary of the bridge was celebrated in May of 1987.  The bridge was closed to cars and pedestrians could walk across it.  Walt. Char, Mike (and others) went to do the walk.  I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with them, so I drove them to as close as we could get so they didn't have that far to walk.  As it turned out, it was a madhouse on the bridge and so crowded that they never actually made on to the bridge, but were trapped on the road leading up to it.

It was a great idea, but they estimated 80,000 people would come and more than 800,000 did, 300,000 actually got onto the bridge.  Nobody anticipated that the weight of all those people would actually flatten the curve of the bridge. "The Golden Gate Bridge, all 419,000 tons of it, groaned and swayed like an old wooden plank thrown across a ditch," painting contractor Winston Montgomery wrote. "Frightened and seasick people vomited on their shoes.  People began throwing bicycles and strollers off the bridge in order to lighten the load on the bridge."  The engineers, however, stated later that there was never any danger of collapse.

The Golden Gate Bridge is my "twin towers," and when swords start rattling in other countries, I get afraid for the safety of my bridge.  It wouldn't be San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge, even if I had to pay $9 for the privilege of crossing it.

No comments: