HOPE FOR THE AURORA BRIDGE
by Kirby Lindsay
The reputation of the George Washington Memorial Bridge (more commonly known as Aurora Bridge) has slowly eroded from serving as a connection to being a symbol of despair. Fortunately, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has moved even further toward construction of a safety barrier for the bridge. Additionally, a local church community, The Vine Christian Ministries, has organized a weekend (October 23 – 24) of hope, and love, for the Bridge, those who have died there – past and future – and those left behind to deal with the shattering aftermath of suicide.
This emphasis comes at a time when deaths by suicide beneath the Aurora Bridge have inexplicably spiked. According to reports in the news blog Fremontuniverse.com, two attempts took place in the last three weeks (reported on October 6, and October 14.)
Preliminary Barrier Work Begins
In September WSDOT awarded the contract to build a fence, just outside the historic railing of the bridge, to Massana Construction. According to Greg Phipps, a WSDOT spokesperson, “we will know more after the meeting,” on Thursday, October 22nd between WSDOT and Massana representatives. There they will review parameters of the work to be done, and the schedule of construction, although preliminary work is expected in November.
Phipps explained that the bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will have to be examined using an x-ray or some ground penetrating radar equipment to find rebar inside the structure. “Apparently the ‘as-built’ plans from 1931 aren’t necessarily accurate,” Phipps pointed out, and in order to drill and install bolts onto which they will attach the fence, the contractor needs to determine the exact location of the rebar.
“We are going to be doing outreach as we learn details about our contractor’s construction plans,” Phipps stated. He has already submitted a request to speak before the Fremont Neighborhood Council, and will, most likely, appear at several community meetings this fall.
Take Back The Bridge To Fear
“A lot of people have tried to solve this problem. Suicide is preventable.” Pastor Heath Rainwater spoke forcefully. He and other members of the church, The Vine, where he serves as Pastor have organized an event, called Take Back The Bridge. “It is not an event to bring awareness,” he explained, “we are already aware.” Aware of those who had died, and the string of people – first responders, family, friends and passers by – traumatized by these tragedies. “What we need is a solution,” Pastor Rainwater said.
‘Take Back’ will start with a 24-hour prayer vigil – from 5p.m. on Friday, October 23 to 5p.m. on Saturday. Saturday, October 24, also will have an ‘All Neighborhood Pancake Breakfast’ from 8 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., an ‘All Neighborhood BBQ’ from 3p.m – 5:30p.m. and a ‘Bring Hope to Our Community’ march to the Aurora Bridge, that begins at 40th & Whitman Avenue North at 10:15a.m.
“This event is about God,” Pastor Rainwater stated unflinchingly, yet, “there is no agenda here.” ‘Take Back’ is not about recruiting/evangelizing for the church, or making some political statement. It will, however, have a fundraising component, with proceeds raised by the BBQ and Pancake breakfast to go to Crisis Clinic.
In addition to serving his church, Rainwater works as a Seattle Fire Fighter. Last year, as a first responder he watched a young man jump to his death. The Pastor in him felt compelled “to be out there preaching hope and love to those on the Bridge. Hope is a powerful force,” Pastor Rainwater insisted, and he wants those who feel overwhelmed by life’s difficulties to know love, support and solutions – other than suicide – do exist. Take to the streets, he suggested, and join with neighbors, “to bring love out into the community.”
- "Stemming the tide of suicides"
- by Kirby Lindsay, June 17, 2009
- "Hurdles to the Bridge Barrier Cleared for Construction"
- by Kirby Lindsay, Sept 1, 2009
- "The draw of the Aurora Bridge"
- by Kirby Lindsay, Sept 8, 2009
- "A matter of life and death"
- by Kirby Lindsay, Jan 25, 2008
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.