This past Saturday, on a weather-perfect afternoon in Brooklyn, my son Charlie sat at an outdoor restaurant enjoying the view.
“You can see three bridges and the Statue of Liberty from where I’m sitting right now,” he texted us, along with the picture. Though he has lived in New York for nine years, Charlie still walks through that city with Midwestern glee and we love his enthusiastic updates.
“Tonight on my walk I saw a little girl singing New York New York to her parents and little brother,” he texted me last night.
I enjoy his stories on any occasion, but I particularly appreciated the Charlie-eyed-view of Brooklyn on Labor Day weekend.
I can’t imagine a more perfect tribute to American ingenuity and determination than the picture he sent.
Imagine the guts it took to climb those suspension cables every morning for nearly a decade or more, to sway in the wind over the East River and to do it with blind faith in the engineer who designed the bridge, your co-workers and your god. Workers constantly faced death from drowning, decompression sickness and injury. Still, they came back every day and worked with pride and fraternity.
The three suspension bridges in Charlie’s view include the Brooklyn Bridge, which took 14 years to build and was completed in 1883, the Williamsburg Bridge, which took seven years and was completed in 1903 and the Manhattan Bridge, which took eight years to build and was completed in 1909.
None of the three bridges currently charge a toll to cross, though, interestingly, the Brooklyn Bridge originally charged a penny to cross by foot, a nickel for a horse and rider and a dime for a horse and wagon. Farm animals could cross for a nickle per cow and two cents per sheep or hog. Those toll were rescinded in 1911.
Fittingly, the Statue of Liberty also stands proudly in the distance beyond those bridges. Who knows how many innovators, bridge builders, risk takers and laborers sailed past that beacon of hope in the 145 years she has stood sentry to one of this country’s main ports of entry.
On this national holiday as we raise our glasses to the American worker, let’s give special thanks to the bridge builders, the connectors of disparate islands, the drivers of the American dream.
Happy Labor Day to all of you!