Big news this week of course was the bridge dedication which occured last Friday. Attended by a smattering of politicians including Wes Chesboro and Patty Berg, as well as some inland supervisors, and a sampling of former Fort Bragg mayors, it sounds as though the dedication went well. Friday was marked by fog and only a small, brave crowd turned out to attend the ceremony, which was followed by a parade. (By all accounts, the parade was pathetic, consisting of the dregs of local groups and a few oddballs. Everyone is resting up for Paul Bunyan Days, which are almost upon us.) The boat salute was a bust, although the Coast Guard cutter did make an appearance. The length of the bridge was also speculated about at length–in actuality, the bridge is not “wider than the Golden Gate Bridge.” It falls four feet short of the Golden Gate, and I’m sure it will serve this community just fine. Hopefully the day will never come when a wide bridge might be desired.
Some speeches were made, some individuals were toasted, ribbons were cut, and everyone trundled home.
But there are two things, or, rather, two people about the bridge whom we should remember. Although there seems to be some confusion about it, the bridge actually is named for Lt. Charles Larson, who lost his life fighting in the Second World War. Larson’s family attended the dedication of the previous bridge as well, which sounds like a much grander affair by all accounts, with wreaths, Navy flyovers, and other such relics of an age when people used to dedicate things properly. The bridge is not “The New Noyo Bridge,” or even “A Triumph of CalTrans Engineering.” It is the Lt. Charles Larson Memorial Bridge, and most people native to this community know it. I hope that the plaques on the endpieces of the bridge are restored, so that visitors can be made aware of this as well. It’s important for us to remember our heritage and our roots, and Fort Bragg is small enough that dedicating a bridge to the memory of one of her former citizens seems no crime to me. When a community this size loses one of her own, it is an experience which marks everyone. I have a feeling I’m not the only resident who prays that no more bridges will need to be named for friends, neighbors, and children.
Julio Quintero, the man who was killed during the building of the bridge, was also honored. The accident in which he died was freakish, and I’m sure I’m not the only who has wondered how his white supervisor survived and he didn’t. During the early stages of construction on the bridge, rebar columns were created which would later serve as cores for the concrete trusses. Early one morning, Quintero and a supervisor were working on one of these columns, which suddenly collapsed–Quintero was crushed. This of course does call into some question the support system of a bridge which is now host to brisk traffic in both directions.
There have been numerous accidents on the deck of the bridge in past years, as well. Is the bridge bloodthirsty, or is it merely that in a small town, each death had impact? At any rate, now we have a new bridge, and the roadway, at least, is accident free thus far. With the amount of drunk driving convictions in the court report, we shall see how long that lasts.