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.

March 27, 2007: The Last Blast

What to say? For Sparky and myself - these past 2 2/3 years reflect one of those must have adventures. Looking over the shoulders of our new friends, we often thought we were part of the team unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges. Ken Canty from Jay Cashman opened the back door for us while Steve Testa and Ponch kept us out of trouble. This got us started.

Then Mickey Rogers sent me email wanting to know why I gave little attention to the subcontractors. It was a well deserved slap on my wrist which I rectified the next day. With Mickey and his team, Sparky and I were the junior learners while Mickey and Ken were the senior learners and from them we mastered Implosion 101.

Joshua Hebb goes to the head of the class because at the tender age of 10, discovered that I had misidentified his dad. Michael's wife, Tina, enabled Joshua to write email to me and correct my photo essay. From then on - Tina, Joshua, Michael (Joshua's dad) and Jack Foley became more than friends. Then Michael and Jack helped us master Cat 101. Then there is Richie. From Richie Bagen, we mastered Burning 101 - and how to thank Richie? Richie brought to Ellen and myself priceless care and attention. From Lewis, Nugget, Carlos, Stan and all the other Ironworkers, we gained a new appreciation of acrobatic positions. Then there is Chris Vocci and Manny - these men who seem to save each day with a smile and soft spoken kind word for everyone around them.

Then March 23, 2005 I moved to Singapore as part of the startup faculty for the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. The day before I left, Mickey phoned to see if could build a photo essay around the largest implosion to date the T-3 foundation. How could I resist?

And Sparky who shared his photos with me and were frequent additions to this website, suddenly was carrying the ball alone. What a friend - rain or shine or sleet or snow - only Katrina rebuilding took him away from our project. A huge thanks!! There are many many others and I apologize for my old man's failing memory - but thanks to you all.

Here is the last chapter - more or less - the last blast of the Grace foundation. The worksite with the Grace pier foundation gracefully wrapped in steel mesh and rubber blankets.


Sparky's photo site


Mickey (left), Ken (right) and a young Rogers (middle) - before the last blast


Part of our DOT and Cashman team - Ken Canty in the background left and part of the DOT team


Shelly who will do the honors and push the button


And Mickey setting up the transmitter which includes the button.
And check out his Nikon D-70 and super lens. This I need for my Singapore insect photo essays


A remote part of the team


Then Shelly did her thing - and here are the results. Detonation at each end.


Then the central region is detonated


Then all sound and fury - signifying something serious


Up up and away - the last of the Grace piers


Then slowly drifting north


and Ken explained this orange smoke, but I've forgotten the mechanism


So - a learning exercise for me and with the answer, I'll post a learning link


and its over


After - no pier foundation


A Graceless worksite


and Neal starts the cleanup


digging for gold


and depositing his gold


Shelly and Jim in the dump truck


Randy in the bulldozer


Ken (left) and Mickey (right) after while Neal continues his gold digging


Here Jim is backing up to get his share of the gold


and what a share


Sparky heads home - over the bridge that Wade directed, Peo managed the mainspan coordination and Oliver and his Freyssinet team installed the stay cables. To tell the truth, I'm a bit sad. Life in Singapore is interesting, building a new medical school is a challenge, but I really miss our bridge friends and learning from them.


Bye bye from Singapore

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer