Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Michigan's oldest covered bridge destroyed by arson

This post comes a few days after the fact, but authorities have confirmed that White's Bridge, a covered bridge located in Smyrna, and spanning the Flat River between Belding and Lowell in Ionia County, fell victim to arson. The bridge was Michigan's oldest covered bridge still in use, and its destruction devastated community members, many of whom said it was a memorable and beloved part of their childhoods. White's Bridge went up in flames in the early hours of July 7. Police officials are now confirming that an accelerant was found on evidence taken from the bridge's wreckage, leading them to determine the fire was intentionally set.

I don't think I've ever crossed the bridge, or even seen it, but this story breaks my heart. The bridge was built by hand (and by ox and horse) in 1867, and was named for a prominent local family. In the years since, it survived a variety of mishaps, including damage inflicted by a drunk driver in 2010. Throughout it all, White's Bridge maintained its status as a community landmark and point of pride, at least until the morning of July 7.

I have many things I'd like to call the person or people who decided to burn down the bridge, but I don't want to waste any mental energy on them. What makes me truly sad is the fact that, when so many things in our society are impermanent, we can't rely on our fellow citizens to respect the things that ARE permanent, the things that have withstood almost 150 years of changes and seasons and events that we humans can only read about in history books. It makes me sad to think of the men who built this bridge, their painstaking handiwork long usurped by modern technology, and now destroyed by the dash of an accelerant and the flick of a match. I love this state, I love the people who have lived (and are living) in it, and it saddens me that the blood, sweat, and memories of the thousands of people who have a connection to this bridge were destroyed by the selfish actions of a few.

An effort is under way to rebuild White's Bridge, and though no structure can replace the historic original, I take some comfort in the fact that the effort's organizers are making history of their own. Maybe in another 150 years, the "new" White's Bridge will be the source of as much reverence and community pride as was the old one.

More information:

White's Bridge Restoration

White's Bridge History

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