POINT PLEASANT — On a day set aside to remember the victims of the Silver Bridge collapse, many thoughts turned to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. on Saturday at the Point Pleasant River Museum.
During the river museum’s remembrance event on the 45th anniversary of the bridge disaster, parallels between the two tragedies began to emerge — the most basic of which was the unexpected, senseless nature of the two events and the prayers that followed.
Yet, the parallels went beyond the obvious. Attending the remembrance event were two residents of Connecticut who helped co-author the new book, “The Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967.” Dr. Stephan G. Bullard of the University of Hartford and his undergraduate student Bridget J. Gromek, stood before the packed house at the remembrance event talking about why they developed the book.
Bullard, who grew up in Morgantown, teaches a class on disasters at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He asks his students to find and research a disaster and, thanks to a program on the History Channel about the Silver Bridge Disaster seen by Gromek, the seed for the book was planted. Gromek became so fascinated with the story, she applied for and received a grant to allow her to travel to West Virginia to do her research and to put faces with the names affected by the disaster.
Gromek said the project felt like it came out of nowhere.
When asked what stuck with her the most about researching and compiling the book, she said, “all of it is heartbreaking.” As for what she hopes the book will accomplish, she said, “All I want is to give them (the victims, town’s people) a voice. We wrote it for the local people.”
She also said she’s tried to educate others in Connecticut who have never heard of the disaster.
Bullard shared his student’s sentiment, telling the audience the book was done to bring the stories of the disaster together with the community’s help, because, in the end, it is the community’s story.
Bullard said in researching the book it was also inspiring to see how a small community faced a huge tragedy and survived, remarking on what is now facing the community of Newtown and how he and Gromek would be stopping there to pay their respects on the way home from Point Pleasant.
The book’s other co-authors are Martha and Ruth Fout of Mason County who helped collect and archive material for the book from local people.