Suicide Spot Celebrates its 75th Anniversary
Thousands of people flocked to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday for a spectacular celebration of the famous landmark's 75th birthday. But a less cheery presence at the festivities was this display of 1,558 shoes representing those who have killed themselves by jumping off the bridge into the San Francisco Bay.The moving installation was the work of the Bridge Rail Foundation, an organisation dedicated to stopping suicide jumps from the bridge.'It's a symbol of how deep and serious this problem has been,' said spokesman Paul Muller. 'We're still losing 30 to 35 a people a year off the bridge.'
Since it opened in 1937, more than 2billion vehicles have crossed the mammoth structure.The imposing tourist attraction was named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance of water to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, which was championed by engineer Joseph Strauss in the 1920s.The bridge, which rises majestically above a Civil War-era fort on the San Francisco side and arches across to the Marin County headlands to the north, is in the middle of a seismic upgrade that has seen many of its structures replaced or modified.
The bridge was built as the US emerged from the Great Depression, and was heralded as an engineering marvel when it opened in 1937.Now an iconic sight, it was the world's longest suspension span at the time, built across a strait that critics said was too treacherous to be bridged.Crews had to install a bracing system after high winds lashed and twisted the span in the 1950s, raising fears it would collapse. Years later, they had to replace vertical cables when they were found to have corroded in the bridge's damp, foggy climate, potentially destabilising the span.
'When (one of the bridge's designers) made his final speech during opening day ceremonies in 1937, he said, "I present to you a bridge that will last forever,"' said Daniel Mohn, the bridge's former chief engineer, who co-authored a book about the span. 'What he should have said is, "I present to you a bridge that will last forever if properly maintained."'Eleven men died during construction from 1933 to 1937 - ten of them when scaffolding fell through a safety net that had been set up to protect workers.The conditions were difficult, cold, foggy and windy, and workers who helped construct supports for the south tower had to contend with dangerous tides.
The current retrofit project is expected to extend the bridge's lifespan by another 150 years.