POINT PLEASANT — The Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center holds key information on the Silver Bridge tragedy of 1967.
According to Ruth Fout and Jack Fowler of the museum, visitors have a peaked interest in the Silver Bridge archives. Family members of those who survived and of those who lost their lives attempt to visit the museum at least one time.
Two weeks ago a survivor native to North Carolina who was transporting rubber in his truck the night of the bridge’s collapse stopped by with his son and grandson. The survivor is nearing his 88 birthday and made visiting the river museum a priority. He told Fout about his plunge into the water and how a piece of rubber from his truck tore at a spot precisely the size of his hand kept him afloat in the river until his rescue. Fout said she appreciates hearing the tales of the museum’s visitors and corresponds with some of them.
The river museum’s Silver Bridge archives include a 17-foot model of the bridge, including vehicles placed on the bridge before the collapse. Fowler mentions this exhibit receives a great deal of attention. Outside of the museum a bench sits in front of the flower garden made out of an eyebar from the bridge and by the front window a bell is mounted on a twisted beam once a part of the bridge. Visitors can also inspect the bridge’s dedication plate, an eyebar, and a spacer from the bridge along with blanket and a piece of a truck extracted from the debris of the collapse. Testimonies from survivors and witnesses and newspaper articles regarding the tragedy can also be read. Videos are available for guests to watch and gain perspective on the tragedy: one video illustrating the technical cause of the bridge’s collapse, one video showing the dedication ceremony of the bridge, and one video having various interviews with witnesses and survivors. The museum’s collection caught the attention of Open University located in London, England. Professors of the university’s engineering program have compiled lectures about the effects of “under planning” the construction of a bridge.
The river museum attracts visitors near and far, ranging from those who have grown up knowing the story to those who have never heard of the Silver Bridge tragedy. The museum staff are always open for discussion.
Staff from the river museum, city and county officials, along with other volunteers are working with the West Virginia Division of Highways to plan an observance of the tragedy on Dec. 15. This will mark the 50th year since the collapse occurred.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.