Culture

Fences on Bridges

When you live in the north, you don’t even see them most of the time. And why would you? When you’re driving you’ve got other things to worry about, like other cars and large mammals leaping in front of your vehicle. There’s plenty of evidence of how that ends for the mammal dotted along the roadways. So inanimate objects understandably don’t get a lot of attention, especially when the inanimate object is a chain link fence atop a bridge you’re driving under. But I think about those fences, and was reminded why last week.

There’s only one purpose to fencing edging the sides of bridges; to keep what’s on the bridge from plummeting off the bridge to the ground or road below. This is critical for keeping, say, an avalanche of snow coming off a snowplow from suddenly blinding the vision of an unsuspecting driver when it lands on their windshield. I’ve experienced this, and don’t recommend seeking it out in your winter travels.

The fencing also serves to keep people from accidentally or deliberately exiting the bridge using the side exits. And I was reminded of this purpose last week as I drove down I-90 last week, looked up and saw the flowers. And the flowers reminded me of the darkest day in a college friend’s life, when he looked over that bridge and saw his daughter lying on the side of the road, feet from where I was driving last week, almost two years since he held her lifeless body in that place. She’d climbed over that fence in the middle of the night, and forever shattered many lives as she ended hers. I’m shattered for them, still.

And now I look at bridge fences differently, especially that one. I’m grateful for the people the fences keep in to live another day, and mournful for the families of those who didn’t find the necessary impediment to their darkest inclination of the moment. May the fences be taller than the depths of someone else’s darkest moment.

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