SLIDESHOW: Thousands soak in memories of ‘the bridge’ one last time

Todd Lihou
Editor – Seaway News

CORNWALL, Ontario – If you missed the open house that was the tour of the Seaway International Bridge in Cornwall Tuesday, you missed out.

I’ll be turning 40 this year, and for every one of the four decades I have lived in the city, ‘the bridge’ as we’ve all referred to it, has been there.

Until now.

In just a few weeks demo crews will begin the mammoth task of bringing the old girl down, piece by piece.

It felt kind of ironic to be atop the bridge one last time. Like many of you I found myself in traffic, towering dozens of feet above the city, impatiently waiting to get off the bridge as quickly as possible.

Tuesday I wanted to slow down and spend as much time as possible in the same spot I cursed with boredom.

Thousands of people, streaming in from the traffic circle, took advantage of a great idea by the Federal Bridge Corporation and the Seaway International Bridge Corporation to open the structure up to the public.

I grew up on Yates Avenue, between Second and Third streets, in the shadow of the bridge. As a youngster I used to fantasize about careening down its sloping vista on my bike.

Later as a teenager I was stupid enough to walk partway up the bridge, carrying a Pepsi can in one hand, and thought seriously about firing it into traffic speeding along Brookdale Avenue, as part of an ill-advised dare. A Cornwall police officer spotted me, and waited patiently while I slowly walked back down the bridge to a lecture I haven’t forgotten to this day.

Finally, as an adult, I covered the infamous ‘Summit of the Americas’ protest that took place on the bridge. Somehow I got marooned on Cornwall Island, and was forced to walk back to the city, where I had left my car. Police had closed the bridge, and for 20 minutes or so, I was the only person atop the bridge.

Today I wrote my life’s final chapter that includes mention of the bridge.

I wasn’t the only one.

Jacqueline Brandwood, who now lives in Ottawa, was joined by relative Shawn Brinkworth who still lives here. Brandwood grew up next to the bridge too, in a home on Brookdale Avenue.

She told me the duo were making the trek across the bridge on behalf of an elderly relative, who was suffering from the effects of a heart attack while in hospital.

“He’s been asking us all about the bridge,” said Brinkworth.

“We’re doing this for him,” chimed Brandwood.

Mayor Bob Kilger made the stroll too.

He told me he, like many of us, had spent countless minutes and hours driving or waiting atop the bridge – but Tuesday was the first time he ever walked it.

“This was really a great idea,” he said, amidst the waves and greetings of city residents. “This is the last time to do something like this.”

Despite a few drops of rain, and the odd rumble of thunder, the event was an unqualified success.

On my way down the bridge, for the last time, I tried desperately to catch a glimpse of the house I grew up in on Yates Avenue. The neighbour’s tree, which seemed so small when I was a kid, has become a monster that pretty well blotted out any chance of getting a clear view of the house, let alone a picture I could save for posterity.

The good news is, with nearly 40 years of memories saved up that include views of the city from the bridge, and vice versa, I might not need the picture after all.

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