POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Every Dec. 15, time stands still in the memories of those who remember “the day the bridge fell.”
The Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant, W.Va. and Kanagua, Ohio, tumbled into the Ohio River on Dec. 15, 1967, killing 46 people. This year, to mark the 49th anniversary of the tragedy and remember those victims, a memorial will be held in downtown Point Pleasant.
This is the second year for the ceremony which takes place at 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15 at 6th Street in Point Pleasant at the memorial which marks where the bridge used to rest. The music will begin around 5:45 p.m.
The event will include singing by the Point Pleasant Intermediate School Choir, Grace Sydnor of the Gallia Academy High School Madrigals and a performance by the Hannan High School Bell Choir. The names of the victims will be read by Dr. Clyde M. Evans, former Ohio state representative. From the Mason County Courthouse, bells will toll for each individual victim.
Holdyn Keefer, a young man from Mason County who has been battling leukemia, will throw the honorary “switch” on the lights which will decorate the trees around the bridge memorial. A star will also be placed at the site and a wreath. Last year, a memorial tree in front of the courthouse was lit in remembrance of the victims, but this year, due to the tree’s deteriorating condition, the lighting ceremony was moved to the group of trees around the actual memorial.
Kenny Grady of Mason County, who has once again organized the event, said Keefer was chosen because he’s been an “inspiration” to people from across the area and the ceremony is ultimately about hope. Grady has also said he sees the memorial ceremony as an opportunity to be inspired by the memory of those who were lost and support the loved ones who are left. The ceremony also provides support to the towns which were forever affected by the tragedy.
Though there have been observances to mark the tragic anniversary, last year was the first time the ceremony at 6th Street was held. That ceremony had a large crowd – a scenerio Grady hopes will repeat this year.
“I thought it was beautiful,” Grady said about last year’s inaugural observance. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I hope everyone comes out and shows their support again.”
Grady explained, he’s always a little stunned when some people don’t know about the tragedy but these types of observances remind everyone, that what happened on Dec. 15, 1967, is not forgotten.
Grady added, assisting with the event are the Mason County Commission and Point Pleasant Fire Department.
About the Silver Bridge: Dr. Charles Holzer has been recognized as being one of the people who helped pushed the project that was completed in one year and opened to traffic in 1928. At the grand opening of the bridge, there were an estimated 10,000 people at the event that was talked about not only in the immediate area, but across the Midwest. The bridge was a two-lane, 1760-foot-long eyebar suspension bridge with a 700-foot main span 102 feet above the bottom of the Ohio River channel and two 380-foot anchor spans. It was the first bridge in the world to be coated with aluminum. The bridge was not designed to hold the weight of increasing traffic and heavier vehicles over ensuing years. It had a “one-eighth of an inch crack” in one of the structure’s eyebars that caused the disaster.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.