Thursday, August 02, 2007

Building Better Bridges Between Us

To the New York Times discussion of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, I've added these comments:

I live in Texas, way down I-35, but I’d driven across that bridge over the Mississippi a dozen times or so in 2006 (going to hear Garrison Keillor speak at the University of Minnesota, among other things).

This bridge was a tragedy beginning with the original design. You can tell from photos of the bridge before its collapse that it was not among the more substantial looking spans of that scale. It was erected at the height of the Interstate building boom, and it doesn't have the impressive understructure of other 500 steel-girder spans. And so mistakes were make 40 years ago that have now come back to haunt us -- and which will continue to haunt the Twin Cities, the nation's highway contractors and public safety departments for several years as many scramble to design and build a much more worthy replacement in that spot and elsewhere. The bad news is: it will take several years. The good news is: the new bridge will be a better bridge, structurally and aesthetically.

For now, no doubt, we’re all sympathetic toward the good people of the Twin Cities!


Our sentiments are part of what drives the media to be so fickle and government officials to take their eyes off the ball. We need to keep in mind all those who suffer less graphic but more likely downfalls and dangers. Risks are a constant. As Helen Keller said, "Security is a myth. It does not exist in nature. Life is a daring adventure..."

Fears (often irrational fears du jour) seem to drive our sentiments and our thinking as much as they drive faddish news coverage and our scrambling leaders, who so often seem to be caught off guard. We have dangers, as we will always have dangers, some known, with which we can take "calculated risks," and some unknown that catch us unawares. But even with 52,000 deaths in car wrecks every year in this country (the biggest danger most of us face), we still live fairly safe and peaceful lives. We are drawn to graphic and photogenic disasters, but the real dangers in our lives are more insipid, such as car wrecks. We are much more likely to be victims of car accidents and cancer and our own carelessness around the home. I send out my sympathies to those whose sufferings and tragedies and deaths are merely mentioned in the news, without all the spectacle and glamor. Most of us pass away in footnotes.

When we value life and safety and caring more consistently and rationally and fervently, without the folly of following fads, we will make some headway toward building a better society, a better nation -- and better bridges between us all.


At 8/02/2007 11:33 AM, Anonymous g wiz said...

Fickle NEWS? Yeah, I figure this takes our minds off our diet programs for a few days, then it's back to teletubbies.

At 8/02/2007 11:53 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Hey G Wiz, well don't stories like this make us even more TELEtubbies (and COMPUtubbies) as we watch and watch and SURF some more? Tubbies R US!

At 8/12/2007 1:57 PM, Blogger PROfess PROgress said...

The news loves to exploit tragedies.

Visit my blog for politics and social issues.


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