45th Anniversary of Bridge Collapse Brings Community Together

By: Alex Snyder Email
By: Alex Snyder Email

MASON COUNTY, W. Va. (WSAZ) – The tragedy following a catastrophic collapse 45 years ago is still very real to those who lived it.

"I couldn't see anyone surviving in the water because it was a cold evening and there was ice in the river -- and it was, it was just something that just hard to believe it happened," said Russell Holland, who was a city councilman at the time of the bridge collapse.

On December 15, 1967, 46 people were killed when the Silver Bridge spanning the Ohio River at Point Pleasant suddenly collapsed from the weight of traffic above and came crashing into the river.

"And it was so surreal, it was quite. And everything was calm except on the Ohio River side with all the lights that were out there where people were doing the recovery on that part," said Jim Naegel, who was in the Coast Guard at the time of the collapse and helped with recovery efforts.

On Saturday, hundreds of people came together to remember those lives lost in that collapse.

"Oh, it was a hard thing to do -- bringing those cars up because a lot of the people I knew were in those cars," said Holland.

The traumatic footage of the bridge collapse gripped the nation – but what people here remember is how the community came together to help one another out in a dire time of need.

"But listen, I'm going to tell you, when that Silver Bridge fell -- hey, this county and all the counties around, Gallipolis, everybody -- they responded, it was unreal," said Pastor Roger Bonecutter, who worked with recovery efforts.

"To watch the people -- how they would pull together, and they would work together for a common cause. They deserve to be remembered," said Bonecutter.

The Silver Bridge stood for 40 years. The recovery mission following the collapse lasted 16 days, but not all of the bodies were found.

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