Thursday, July 18, 2013

A History of Violence: A Look Back at 5 Defining Tragedies in Brooklyn's Past

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Page 3 of 6


Brooklyn Bridge Stampede; May 30, 1883
When you look at the Brooklyn Bridge now, what do you see? An awe-inspiring Gothic monument to human achievement? I mean, sure. But also what you see is DEATH. Despite its beauty, the Brooklyn Bridge has quite a tragic history. Well, beauty frequently goes hand in hand with misery, but that's another story all together. The sad story of the Brooklyn Bridge really begins with the sorry fates of its main designers, father and son team John Augustus and Washington Roebling. The elder Roebling died following an injury to his foot while visiting the bridge's construction site. His toes were crushed, required amputation, and then—because there were no antibiotics—he died of the subsequent infection. His son, Washington, took over the project and then suffreed decompression sickness and was bed-ridden for the rest of the bridge's construction. The younger Roebling did not succumb to his illness, and in a nice turn of events, had his wife, Emily, supervise the bridge's completion, but still. Bad run of luck for the Roebling family. But so, that's just back story, because what we're really here to talk about is the horrific stampede that took place on May 30, 1883. The bridge had opened only 6 days before, but fears of its instability caused mass panic and 12 people died in the resulting stampede. Twelve people! And that's why you never yell "Collapse!" when you're crossing a bridge. The lasting effects of this tragic incident? I mean, there weren't any really, because nothing was wrong with the bridge, just with humanity and that'll never change. But also, one year later, circus man P.T. Barnum led a parade of 21 elephants over the bridge to vouch for its stability.

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About The Author

Kristin Iversen

Kristin Iversen

Kristin Iversen is the Managing Editor at Brooklyn Magazine and the L Magazine. She has been described as "a hipster buzzword made flesh." This seems pretty accurate.

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