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LETTER: An ode to a bridge

['letter to the editor']
['letter to the editor']

In honour of the 20th anniversary of the Confederation Bridge: This story begins in late December 1979.

I was working in the Moncton area on a Friday morning, the weather forecast was not good. By 10 a.m. the first flakes of snow began falling and I decided it was time to head for the ferry before the storm arrived. By 10.30 a.m., the snow was falling thick. I was down to a snail’s pace but managed to reach the terminal with about five minutes to spare.

The ship was just moving out into the Strait as I headed for a table in the cafeteria with a plate of food and drink. I never got to enjoy my meal. Suddenly the ship was rolling wildly and my food, like everything else, went flying. The cafeteria closed down.

I made myself as comfortable as possible in the upper lounge for the trip. I could see nothing outside the windows. The storm had reached its full fury.

As we neared the P.E.I. side I could see brief glimpses of land. That was when all hell broke out. In order to enter the harbor, the ship had to turn broadside across the wind. We were hit by a huge wave that roll the ship almost onto its side.

My attention was abruptly returned to the moment. The women sitting next to me and carrying a small baby was screaming in terror. Chairs flew, people were tumbling on the decks, a fire extinguisher broke loose, careened across the lounge and bounced off the other side spraying on anyone in range.

The captain must have realized we were never going to make it into the harbour and brought the ship back into the wind. We steadied up considerably and the rolling decreased. People began picking themselves up.

The Abegweit was now plowing slowly up the Strait hoping for the weather to abate a little. In the lounge things had settled down and a few people were chatting about the near capsize.

The calm didn’t last long, a member of the crew burst into the lounge saying: “Oh my God, the ship might catch fire, a tractor trailer had turned over and crushed two cars beside it. Gasoline was washing around the lower car deck. The captain had ordered all electric and heat be turned off until the gas was foamed and safe. We finally learned a tractor-trailer loaded with concrete blocks had almost overturned, the cables holding the concrete snapped and the blocks came off the flatbed crushing two cars, but fortunately no one was hurt.

The storm raged all day leaving us stuck plowing up and down the Strait, cold and hungry. At midnight we landed back at the New Brunswick terminal. The bare waiting area was packed, cars had been arriving most of the day and the parking area was full. The terminal waiting area was crowded and of course the canteen was closed. I was famished. We spent the long night cold, tired and hungry sitting on metal folding chairs. At six a.m. they announced we were reloading, the weather had moderated. The crossing, while much less dramatic, still took and additional three hours. So what do you think? Do I like the Confederation Bridge?

F. Ben Rodgers,

Abram Village

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