By The Huguenot Bridge
Sixty-one years. Nearly a lifetime for the average American male. Truman was still in office when I opened in 1949. All The King’s Men won Best Picture, the first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the U.S., and all the members of ZZ Top were born that year.
Sixty-one years is also how long I’ve been a part of your lives, offering you a means to and from the Southside and into and out of the city limits.
And now what do you do? You go and announce plans to tear me down and replace the entirety of my 2,900-foot span with a shiny, brand new bridge. More than a half century of service, and this is how you assholes choose to repay me.
If I could physically do such a thing, I’d be beside myself right now.
Would it have been so hard to construct me in a fashion whereby I had a bit more lasting power than only 61 years? Consider, for a moment, the great bridges of the world: Brooklyn, one of the oldest suspensions in the U.S., completed in 1883 and showing no signs of ever coming down. The Golden Gate? Going on 73 years and stronger than ever. I talked to it just the other day, as a matter of fact.
Me? You gave me 61 years, let me fall into complete and total disrepair, then said “Let’s just tear it down build a new one, fuck it.” Well, fuck you. Each and every one of you. You probably didn’t do one thing to try and save me, did you? No, you didn’t. You’re all guilty of my fate.
I have given you everything. Everything. Without me you’d all be paying the 70 cent toll to get over the Powhite, then however much more to get off on your exit. Me? Free. That’s not even something you can get from the Nickel Bridge, that false-advertising son of a bitch.
Cross me into Southside and I’ll let you go wherever you want. I don’t give a shit about the money.
It was never about the money.
It was about pride, dammit. Goddamned civic pride. I am the Huguenot Bridge. I’m a part of the community. I’m a name synonymous with Richmond. I bet you don’t even know what Huguenot means, do you? Do you?
Come to think of it, I don’t really know what it means, either. I’m just a bridge. I don’t even know how I’m typing this.
Though dangerous, my narrow, shoulderless width was part of what has made me so iconic in this area. Sure, people are sometimes scared to drive over my pothole-ridden concrete surface. But you know what? They still do it, dammit, they still do. More than 28,00o cars – an average of more than 50,000 people – still put their faith in me to get them across the James River, safely, each and every day. This is something I’ve taken extremely serious over the years. And I’ll continue to support them.
I will. I swear to you, I will.
Look, I’m sorry I got upset earlier and used some swears. It’s really not my nature. This whole thing is just a lot to bear, and I can’t bear much more these days. Hence my recently imposed 33-ton weight limit for semi-trucks.
Maybe it is time for me to make way for the new guy. Someone younger, more fresh-minded, perhaps recently out of bridge college.
Do one more thing for me, though? Drive over me one last time? It would mean so much. Really, it would. I’d truly enjoy it. I think you would, too. Just pile your wife and kids into the ole’ minivan and come on across my rusty body, one last time. Heck, put the family dog in there, too. As a matter of fact, put everything near and dear to your heart inside your car, lock it up, and ride across my rickety, cracked bridge span for a final time. Don’t even bother fastening your safety belts. You won’t need them.
I promise an experience that will be remembered for a very, very long time.