Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of a horrific highway tragedy, the collapse of the Silver Bridge which spanned the Ohio River between Kanuaga, Ohio and Point Pleasant, West Virginia from 1928 until December 15, 1967 when it crumbled and fell into the icy waters below. The catastrophe, which happened during the busy afternoon rush hour, cost 46 people their lives. Here's an aerial photo showing the two towns and where the bridge stood. In a strange coincidence, the Silver Bridge fell into the water the same year that saw the completion of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Thirteen people died when that bridge collapsed on August 1, 2007.
Country music has a long and cherished tradition of topical songs dealing with real-life tragedies like train wrecks, ship wrecks, and murders. The best overview of this intriguing phenomenon is probably a recently released 3-disc set titled People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913 - 1938 (Tompkins Square). While the songs collected for this project were definitely culled from the golden age of the topical disaster song, the commemoration of local tragedies via records continued for quite some time. Two such songs are included here for your perusal.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia is roughly halfway between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. If you're going to be in the area, you'll want to know that until February 29, 2008 the Point Pleasant River Museum will be featuring a commemoration of this sad event featuring never before displayed photographs, debris from one of the vehicles that was on the bridge at the time of the collapse, pieces of the bridge itself and a model of the bridge among other things.
An extremely fictionalized depiction of the collapse of the Silver Bridge can be seen in the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere. The Mothman was a mysterious creature reported to have been seen in the area for around a year or so preceding the collapse of the bridge. It was supposedly a winged creature that looked something like a large man with a moth-like head, glowing red eyes, and a large set of wings. The cryptozoological community's been eating it up for years, but I'm not buying it. As reported over on the Roadside America website, some theorized that the bridge collapse was caused by a sonic boom emanating from the Mothman's rapidly flapping wings. Right.
UPDATE: Four more songs about this disaster can be heard in a subsequent BEWARE OF THE BLOG post, which can be found here.