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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Reopening bridge spans past, present

The Spokesman-Review

When the Monroe Street Bridge closed Jan. 6, 2003, the story about it shared space in The Spokesman-Review with an analysis piece about what would happen if the United States invaded Iraq. Our forces would hunt down those weapons of mass destruction and stay for about 18 months, the analysis predicted.

In lighter news that day, pop star Justin Timberlake talked about his still-broken heart over his earlier breakup with pop icon Britney Spears.

Here we are more than two years later. Those weapons of mass destruction were never found. The predicted 18 months passed, and it is unknown how much longer our troops will remain in Iraq.

Britney Spears married someone else and gave birth Wednesday to a boy.

The Monroe Street Bridge was closed, but life went on, and now the bridge will open again.

The bridge’s reopening this weekend will be marked with festivities. There’s a bash tonight organized as a fund-raiser by the Spokane Preservation Advocates. You’ll need a $75 ticket for that, but the rest of the celebrations are free.

Saturday and Sunday events include a street fair, street dance, fireworks, a worship service and the 5K Connie Prekeges memorial walk, which will raise money for camp for kids with cancer.

In Saturday’s newspaper, look for our “Bridging Generations” special section filled with stories, historic photos, timelines and the tale of MacKenzie Nielson, who was born in a car on the bridge on March 9, 1994. Not even Britney Spears can top that.

Why all the festivities around a bridge reopening? Well, bridges operate on many levels in a community. The most obvious level is the practical one. Vehicles cross the river over them. Pedestrians use them, too.

Spokane’s bridges connect Spokane’s north side with its south side. Reopening the Monroe Street Bridge offers an additional route from one part of the town to the other. This will provide much-needed relief after the summer of relentless road construction.

But bridges also operate as metaphor. How many times, especially when the bridge first closed, did drivers take their usual route and then remember at the last minute that the route was closed? They experienced frustration, maybe some anger. People experience the same emotions when they burn the bridges of communication in families, churches, workplaces and communities.

Bridges allow communities to mark their histories and remember those who walked through those histories. A photo from 1889, for instance, shows the construction of the original wooden bridge. The river swirls beneath the half-finished structure.

You wonder: What was it like to work on that bridge? What were the daily lives like for the men who labored there? The bridge burned down in 1890. How did the workers feel seeing their hard work disintegrate in the flames?

This weekend, many different kinds of festivities will mark the comeback of the Monroe Street Bridge, a celebration fitting an old and familiar friend. The time the bridge was closed passed quickly in some ways, but slow in other ways, especially while waiting to merge onto Maple Street Bridge during rush hour.

Welcome back, Monroe Street Bridge. You were missed. Now, let the parties begin.

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