Unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges

For Sparky and myself, curiosity drives passion which in turn fuels our life's engine. Our passion was capturing the story of both unbuilding the Grace (1929 - 2007) and Pearman (1966 - 2007) Bridges and discovering the unbuilders. It takes a lot of passion to track a project from July 2005 until April 2007 - rain, shine, hurricanes or moving to Singapore. We discovered the joy of discovery learning. Ken Canty opened the front door for us - then Steve Testa, Ponch Billingsley and Mickey Rogers opened many side doors. Below are the highlights of what we discovered, who we met and what we learned.

And a reminder from T.S. Eliot (East Coker from the Four Quartets)

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

February 17, 2006: Jim Grier's A Team: A tug-of-war with Grace
Last Thursday night Richie, Roy, Rich, Jackie and I celebrated the unpouring of the last Grace roadway section. We were wrong. Jim Grier and his band of Testa misfits on Drum island found yet another roadway segment that needed to be unpoured. It was resting on the top of the cantilever approach on Drum Island. The challenge was to bring down this last steel structure. For Jim, this was his first but he assembled his A team - Leon, Michael, Richie and Adam. Here is the story of the last - last Grace segment.

I managed to stitch Jim's felling of the Grace into a video that shows the action of Jim's A team of Drum Island misfits

The last section in this morning's mist

After getting off the boat, the first face is Jackie - getting ready to connect a shear to his excavator

and his view of the last-last Grace section

Here is the worksite that Jimmy made. The last roadway segment is resting on the right end of the approach

A closer view of the last roadway to unpour.

And Leon, of course

and the rest of the team: Michael, Adam, Richie and Jimmy tighening the cable couplings that will be used to fell this section of the Grace.

For this occasion, as a pre-celebration of success, Jim shaved

and Richie was busy with the final cuts

and the context

This is my joke - these two guys can not be distinguished unless Jackie is wearing reflective sunglasses. My confusion from last August

And Michael cleaning his windshield.

Then the real last cut. This idea is to cut the base girders such that a small tug by Leon will pull the structure down. Above Richie you can see where the pull cable is connected.

This is Michael explaining to Richie how he would have done it

and Leon starts to pull. Click for a video of Jim and the A team's tug-of-war with Grace

1: You can see that the orange team is also pulling for success

2: the 2nd leg from the right breaks

3: the right side begins its fall

4: and continues while the left side starts its fall.

5: more falling

6: and falling

7: and falling

8: and falling

9: the nearer segment is down

10: as the far segment finishes its fall

11: touchdown for the end

12: almost over

13: and Jim's success: all is down

While walking on the bottom of the last Grace road segment, Jim is thanking his team for his first success with felling a bridge segment

The B team (Frank is no substitute for Leon)

the A team - (from left to right) Leon, Adam, Richie, Michael and a smiling Jim

Putting things in perspective, the new Ravenel Bridge and a now Graceless Drum Island

Testa's monument to tenacity of purpose

A view of the Graceless Drum Island

And no story is complete without thanking Sharon for ferrying me back and forth and taking good care of the A team

Sharon smiling

And a surprise - Tina just arrived after driving from Boston for 20 hours with their 3 kids - without going ballistic. Something I could not do.

A very happy Hebb family after a very successful team effort by Jim and his guys

and from Richie to his friends back in Boston

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer