Light Notes

Hoover Dam continues to inspire with new bridge

BOULDER CITY, Nev. — It was an awe-inspiring tourist attraction — and I was one of gawkers.

As I stood on the second-highest bridge in the U.S., with the desert winds whipping around me, I couldn’t help but sense the grandeur of this project — and a bit of vertigo. The view 890 feet below me had my one hand clutching the railing while snapping photos with the other.

The newly opened Mike Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the longest and highest arched concrete bridge in the Western Hemisphere, was an awesome sight.

Fortunately, my husband, Bill, and I had made it past security before the pedestrian viewpoint closed at dusk. One more leisurely stop at Starbucks, and we’d have been too late.

With enough daylight left, the sun touching the rocky Arizona and Nevada cliffs, we read the engraved placards that told the story of how and why this 2,000-foot bridge was constructed. But below us in Black Canyon, another story came to mind as I peered over the edge to see Hoover Dam.

Seventy-five years ago when the dam was being built, my mother lived in the arid desert surrounding Las Vegas. It was the era of the Great Depression, so the promise of work on the Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam) brought many men with families to the area.

I can remember my mom telling me how she was one of the lucky ones with a house and a decent place to raise her son. But for many, life was filled with months of hardship as squatters while the dam was being built. She said some folks even used their cars or sheets of metal as makeshift living quarters in the searing heat. At times, workers fell to their death during construction on the concrete project.

It was a different time and different circumstances. But both the dam and the new bridge speak of determination and hope in the face of adversity. The Boulder Dam employed thousands during an era of economic destitution. The new bridge speaks to our resolve to protect our resources in this age of terrorism.

As I observed the man-made wonders, I felt a sense of gratefulness for the men and women who have completed these engineering feats — magnificent projects that will benefit and inspire us for years to come.

In America, we will always dream big.