I often share real-life stories with you to inspire, to motivate, to encourage… even at times to warn you. Today, I had no intention to achieve any such goal. I will not point out any pitfalls to avoid, nor share any exemplary example to follow.
Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychoanalysis, said it best: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” There doesn’t always have to be some agenda behind telling a wild tale.
However, for those who are “tempted to attempt” the boiling down of this story to some highly-suspect, “ah ha” moment, I suggest the following: look past your past unavoidable defeats, shamelessly rubberneck a stare at the car wreck that is someone else’s life, breathe a sigh of true relief, and thank God you didn’t end up like THESE schmucks. I’d consider that a truly exceptional end result, which a famed 20th century humanitarian and disability advocate once stated much more profoundly and politically correct:
“I cried because
I had no shoes…
.. until I met a man
who had no feet.”
Just over 95,000 residents live in the unassuming city of Choluteca in Honduras, the 7th largest and 2nd hottest in the small Central American nation – and the only city in the country that is directly located on the Pan-American Highway,
That’s relatively significant because the Pan-American Highway is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s longest “motorable road” – stretching from “…Fairbanks, Alaska, USA to Santiago, Chile… eastward to Buenos Aires, Argentina and terminating in Brasilia, Brazil”, about 30,000 kilometres (19,000 mi), travelling through everything from dense jungles to arid deserts and frozen tundra.
Back in 1937, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, using both American and Honduran funds, built the highway system through that country, and at that time, designed and built the Choluteca Bridge.
The Honduran government knew the bridge was likely to face extreme weather conditions, so they commissioned some of the best architectural minds in the world to build a suspension bridge that could withstand any hurricane. It was state-of-the-art at the time, providing a much-needed access point for the people of Honduras and was built to withstand the high winds and hurricanes that plagued the region. And soon after it was built, it became the symbol of the nation
Though it’s about 300 meters long, today it isn’t the longest in the country – in fact, it isn’t even the longest in that city, for soon another bridge in would be built in Choluteca called “The Bridge of the Rising Sun (New Choluteca Bridge)”, which is 484 meters long. (More on that in a minute)
Regardless of size, the original Choluteca Bridge is still considered to be one of the greatest works of architecture in Honduras, and is one of the few replicas of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco that still exists. It’s of such vital importance, it actually controls the flow of traffic from Guatemala to Panamá.
However, in the 1990s, a new bypass road and a second bridge was planned for the city, which was designed to withstand even the strongest of hurricanes. The new Choluteca Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Rising Sun (Spanish: Puente Sol Naciente), was built between 1996 and 1998 by Hazama Ando Corporation, the largest bridge constructed by a Japanese company in Latin America. The old bridge remained, and was intended only for light traffic.
Unbelievably, at the end of October in 1998, the same year that the bridge was commissioned for use, Honduras was hit by Hurricane Mitch, the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, and the worst to hit Honduras in 200 years.
Mitch caused catastrophic impacts, but the most disastrous were witnessed in Honduras, which suffered over 7,000 of the total 11,374 deaths, wrecked about 35,000 houses, damaged another 50,000, and left up to 1.5 million people homeless (20% of the entire country) – and cost the nation over $2 billion. The President of Honduras estimated that Mitch set back 50 years of economic development.
Many bridges, including the old Choluteca bridge, were damaged while some were destroyed, but the new Choluteca Bridge survived with only minor damage.
However, the roads on either end of the bridge had completely vanished, leaving no visible trace of their prior existence.
Yet, the the strangest and most costly damage was to the Choluteca River itself, which actually carved a new channel during the massive flooding caused by the hurricane.
As a result, the river no longer flows under the new bridge, instead now spanning only dry ground! The bridge therefore became quickly became known as “The Bridge to Nowhere”. It took 5 more years before the bridge was reconnected to the highway in 2003.
However, it still spans dry ground!
I’ve seen a number of lame articles that try to paint some kind of allegory concerning this bridge – which was built to last the storm, but the intent of it was lost by the storm damaging the reason for its existence! Seemed highly ironic, but I think most of the analogies were a bit of a stretch. There really is no lesson to learn here – the bridge lasted as it was built to, but unfortunately, one cannot control an act of God, nor could they have planned or even considered what would eventually happen to the river itself!