I have lived in the city of Bridgeport for 20 years. I have never walked on or driven over the Congress Street Bridge. There has been much talk lately of how it has not joined the city together-making the connection between the East end of Bridgeport and the downtown region. It has been like a divorce between the two sides. A tale of two cities. Never a train to cross between the two sides.
At the exhibit in the Barnum museum, the exhibit, Controversaries, depicted several images of buildings and reflections on the city. On one panel, the photographer, David Ryan, took several revealing images of the decaying bridge that acts like a soldier in a saluted position with his arms raised. He is awaiting for the response of a commander to say "Hut" to move it forward and go on a march. Yet, this bridge shows much age with rust forming and a fence surrounds the bridge. The sign has the words detoured painted in white and written around the sign are graffiti marks that say detour. A red empty barrel is sitting on the pavement amidst the weeds and long grasses that are thriving on the black pavement. No movement has exited on the property except for a few random birds that fly by or go through looking for a random seed.
While looking at these photographs, I felt sad since I never knew this part of our city's history and wish I knew more of the human face to this giant.
The name of the bridge, congress, means to bridge together and be an assembly even as our United States government is. Yet, the irony and part of the controversary is how is our society going to put aside differences and establish a priority to restore funding to make this project become a reality and not to have to be part of an exhibit on controversary instead. And to bring a little commerce and community into two regions of the downtown and east ends of Bridgeport. This bridge sits over the Pequonnock River.
I know of the importance of bridges connecting places in my life. When I grew up during the summers in maine, we had to cross several bridges to get to our beloved Pratts Isle. We crossed over the Kittery Bridge where I got to yell, "Yippie, we are in Maine." Then there was the Southport Bridge that connected us to our island which was a bridge where the tenders had to close the span so the bridge could open. The Southport bridge is painted green and the span is wide. It is a metal bridge contrasted to the wooden bridge of Pratt's Island. Whenever traveling over the Southport bridge, I heard the rumbling of the tires underneath as they gripped the metal plates under the tires. I enjoyed looking at the view over the Sheepscot river as we headed into or off of Southport Island.
Even bridges get old with age with barnacles and rust forming on them but when they are tended with care and by tenders with devotion, then activity springs to life on them. It was always a good time for mom, dad and I to guess as we drove around the corner to the Southport Bridge whether it would be open or closed. There were often long waits during our summers there as the bridge had to be extended for boats to pass safely under. The Lewis family in Maine has worked on the southport Island bridge and that family devotion allows for there to be commerce and tourism. We as a society can learn a lesson or two from the Maine community and treat the Congress Street Bridge in Bridgeport that is listed as historic become part of the present and not just the past.
Let us somehow try to keep it open and give others an opportunity to experience life over a bridge and see how a rumbling of car tires over it can produce a rhythmic drum dance and get life back into two communities and commerce begun again. Not an easy thing to accomplish though but it would be well worth the effort.
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