Washington residents turn out for bridge demolition

At 10:30 a.m. on April 11, 2019, Washington history was made, or as some would say, demolished. After hours of waiting in anticipation, crowds viewed the implosion of the famous Washington Bridge. The riverfront was filled with crowds of all ages and all reasons for attending the implosion.

“This day, I think, is a very sentimental day for all of us,” Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy said. “That bridge has been used in so many of our advertising and our logos and things like that, and it’s gonna be gone now. So, it’s really kind of sentimental to our citizens. Washington is a very involved community and citizens like to be in the know and like to be part of events. There were people coming to the park this morning before the sun rose just to get a good seat.”

Along with excited citizens, many other individuals in the community saw this event as more than entertainment. They saw it as a learning opportunity.

Joe Callahan and I teach Project Lead the Way Engineering [at WHS], so we brought them here because this is part of engineering. It’s not just dropping a bridge. It has to be planned out and organized,” PLTW teacher Philip King said. “In a few weeks, we will have Marschel Wrecking, the crew that’s doing this, come and talk to us and explain the whole process. So it’s a learning event for them to see.”

It was a great experience to be a part of, but it’s hard to see a big part of town history disappear”

— Adam Bell, Borgia senior

While an educational field trip intrigued some of the crowd, personal memories with the bridge also brought in many people, from the elderly to current students.

“My mom always thought I was going to pass out because I held my breath when we went over the bridge,” St. Francis Borgia Regional High School senior Adam Bell said. “I was scared of bridges when I was little, so I held my breath in case it fell while we were on it.”

Although many there witnessed a once in a lifetime event, the man with the most unique day was Matt Coleman. Coleman’s name was drawn for the raffle that awarded the honor of hitting the detonation button to implode the bridge.

“I heard they were going to have a raffle, and the raffle was going to benefit BackStoppers. Being a first responder, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s neat,’ so I bought a few extra tickets—150 to be exact,” Coleman said. “That gave me a little bit better chance, so $500 later, my name was drawn. I was super excited. I mean, I bought extra tickets, but I didn’t honestly think I was going to win.”

After the announcement of his raffle win, Coleman was in a whirlwind of media interviews, practice for the implosion and safety training.

“It was just exciting because that bridge is almost 100 years old, and it’s a part of history. I enjoy history, so the opportunity to be a part of history and see ‘Matt Coleman’ in the paper and videos of getting to blow that up, it’s pretty cool. You get to live on in Washington’s history for the rest of time.”

Coleman’s experience on April 11 is entirely unique to anyone else’s, from his viewpoint of the implosion and the actions of hitting the button.

“I was pretty close to Third Street and Highway 47. They pulled a van out front, and they told us to kneel down behind the van. They said we had to stay behind there in case shrapnel came flying up, but I couldn’t not watch, so I poked my head out and pressed the button.”

That action of pressing the button was a life-changing event for Coleman, and an impactful event for the town of Washington as well.

“It was a great experience to be a part of, but it’s hard to see a big part of town history disappear,” Bell said. “The reason for that is anytime you think of Washington, you think of the bridge. It was an icon of our town.”

George Smith
Angeline Coleman