The Tappan Zee Bridge is the longest bridge in New York State, spanning the Hudson River at its widest point and connecting South Nyack in Rockland County to Tarrytown in Westchester County. Crossing the bridge is a familiar route for New Yorkers fleeing the city on sizzling summer weekends for cooler destinations upstate. The bridge, unfortunately, also is known as a favorite jumping off point for suicide victims, thus those many signs along the span declaring: “Life is worth living,” and giving numbers for suicide help lines.
Opened to traffic on December 15, 1955, the bridge has withstood decades of traffic, an average of 138,000 vehicles a day. That wear and tear has taken a toll. One report called the Tappan Zee “one of the most deceprit and dangerous bridges in the U.S.” Something had to be done and so in 2013, construction began on a replacement bridge which is expected to open in 2018.
Those who are familiar with the original bridge, however, have memories. None expressed more eloquently than those in this poem by Susan Moorhead.
From the window of the Tarrytown library at night, you
can see the green lights of the bridge, bright over dark water.
When I was little, I thought they were strands of emeralds looped
across the water, as my father drove us home from visiting
relatives on the Jersey side. The new Tappan Zee will shine
with LED lights states the local news alongside comments
including “the old bridge sucks” from some opinionated
Matthew. It’s something, watching it rise from the Hudson,
this new bridge. My parents grew up in New Jersey. We
moved from NJ to NY then NJ to NY, and then they returned
to NJ, and I grew up and went NY CT NY, surprising myself
by ending up a local girl back by the Westchester town I grew
up in. It’s officially the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan
Zee Bridge. Zee means sea. Years ago, just after dawn,
I dozed off in the line at a toll booth and tapped some guy’s
bumper. I still remember the look of fury on his face until
he saw I was just some kid, still in my wedding guest
fanciest and he settled for shaking a finger at me as I
mouthed sorry through the window. It’s a cantilever
bridge: a beam anchored on one end only is a cantilever.
I can drive from the Tarrytown, New York side to
Ridgewood, New Jersey with closed eyes if I had to,
all 16,013 feet of bridge. I drove home after we settled
my mother in the hospital, raced back at three a.m. after
the phone call about her emergency surgery. It’s the largest
bridge in New York State. Feels that when you drive over it
begging God not to take her tonight. When you drive over it
practicing your eulogy for your father who surprises everyone
by going first. They are buried in a graveyard beyond the coiling
highways in New Jersey. I see them in mind every day in the kitchen
overlooking the long yard where he putters, she is calling across
the bridge, over the long stretch of shimmering water for someone
to put on the water for tea.
Top photo from Bigstock Images.