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Survival stash found in Brooklyn Bridge

NEW YORK – Workers inspecting the structural foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge uncovered a Cold War-era trove of basic provisions that were stockpiled amid fears of a nuclear attack.

The stash, discovered in a vault under an entrance ramp, includes water drums, canisters of calorie-packed crackers, paper blankets, medical supplies and drugs that were used to treat shock.

The estimated 350,000 Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers are apparently still intact, said Joseph Vaccaro, a supervisor at the city Transportation Department. The metal water drums, each labeled “reuse as a commode,” did not fare as well – they’re now empty.

“We find stuff all the time, but what’s sort of eerie about this is that this is a bridge that thousands of people go over each day,” Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall said Monday. “They walk over it, cars go over it, and this stuff was just sitting there.”

Fallout shelters were common during the 1950s, but most were dismantled.

“The crackers got moldy a very long time ago,” said John Lewis Gaddis, a historian at Yale and a scholar of the Cold War. “It’s kind of unusual to find (a shelter) fully intact – one that is rediscovered, almost in an archaeological sense.”

Some of the items discovered last week in the bridge vault were ink-stamped with two especially significant years in cold-war history: 1957, when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, and 1962, when the Cuban missile crisis seemed to bring the world to the precipice of nuclear destruction.