Rosemead Kiwanis Club

   "Serving the Community Since 1945"






The Fax of Life

A weekly inspiration, courtesy of the Kiwanis Club of Scott's Valley

September 21, 1997                                                                   Vol. 2,  No. 45


 The Miracle Bridge


The Brooklyn Bridge that spans the river between Manhattan and Brooklyn is simply an engineering miracle. In 1883, a creative engineer, John Roebling, was inspired by an idea for this spectacular bridge project. However, bridge-building experts told him to forget it, it just was not possible.


Roebling convinced his son, Washington, an up-and-coming engineer, that the bridge could be built. The two of them conceived the concept of how it could be accomplished and how to overcome the obstacles. Somehow they convinced bankers to finance the project. Then, with unharnessed excitement and energy, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.


The project was only a few months under way when a tragic on-site accident killed John Roebling and severely injured his son. Washington was severely brain-damaged, unable to talk or walk. Everyone thought the project would have to be scrapped, since the Roeblings were the  only ones who understood how the bridge could be built.


Though Washington Roebling was unable to move or talk, his mind was as sharp as ever. One day as he lay in his hospital bed, an idea flashed in his mind as to how to develop a communication code. All he could move was one finger, so he touched the arm of his wife with that finger. He tapped out the code to communicate to her what she was to tell the engineers who continued building the bridge. For 13 years, Washington tapped out his instructions with one finger until the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge was completed.


[Editor's note: this story is apparently only partially true. According to the official website of the American Society of Civil Engineers  there was never a doubly incapacitating accident.  The senior Roebling died, his son was appointed chief engineer and then became ill himself – making it needful for his wife to assume some (but not all) of his duties. This version of the story is verified by another site which cites tetanus as the cause of death of the senior Roebling while his son later contracted Cassion s Disease  (aka decompression sickness or the bends).]


Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. All of its Clubs are independently-run community service groups.