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Building Bridges
- A Wedding Story

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Building Bridges – For Our Wedding 1971
Steven W. Gilbert, October, 2005
Click here for Photo of Bridge

Sally and I got married on Sept 4, 1971, mid-day in a beautiful field at “Brook House” – the 2nd home of a some friends near Princeton.  It was called “Brook House” because Bedens Brook ran through the property.  At the end of a very long driveway was a parking area, connected by a small footbridge across the brook to the main house, the pool, and the surrounding fields.

By Saturday, August 29, a week before the wedding, Tropical Storm Doria had dropped 11 inches of rain on the area in 36 hours.[1]   Sally & I had been given keys to Brook House so we could use the pool while the owners were away on vacation.  We were also asked to tidy up and make sure the place was in decent shape.  So, on Sunday we drove out to Brook House to check up.  We discovered something had changed.  The brook had overflowed its banks by so much that the trees in the driveway had debris still showing from the ground up to about 6 feet.  But the biggest change was that the bridge had vanished. 

First we were embarrassed that we hadn’t paid more attention sooner.  We felt we should have done something to protect the home and bridge, even though we knew we couldn’t have.  Then we gradually realized what the missing bridge meant.  There was no alternative to the bridge.  150 people were expecting to cross that brook next weekend to our wedding!

The next day the Brook House owners returned to their home and we went to visit them and give them the bad news.  We were nervous and worried.  After we described the situation, the man who owned the property was quiet for what seemed like a very long time, then he began to grin and get excited.  “Now we can build a bridge!”  he said.  And then explained how he had been wanting to do that for years.  This was a great excuse. 

He and his oldest son immediately began planning and making arrangements that were beyond our comprehension or expectation.  In the next few days large quantities of lumber, telephone poles, and building scaffolding arrived at the end of that very long driveway. 

I can’t recall very clearly how it all happened – probably because, as the bride and groom, Sally and I were kept out of the worst of the discussions about the logistical challenges and preparations.  But it all came together.  With just a few days left, all the materials had arrived and the plans were settled.

Everyone in either family, friends of anyone involved at all with the wedding, were commandeered to help work on the bridge.  I recall spending time up to my waist (or deeper) in that brook alongside my cousins from California and lots of others.  We were fortunate not to know enough to realize how unlikely it was that we would succeed.  But we did.  I’m still grateful for the way that our hosts rallied to the challenge and provided the leadership and resources we needed.

But most important, by the time of the actual wedding day, many members of the two groups that were meeting for the very first time had gotten to know each other better than could have happened any other way.  The usual awkwardness of even the most mutually well-intended first meetings vanished immediately as people (literally) jumped in to help.

And so we built a bridge and got married.  Everyone at our wedding walked across our bridge on that brilliantly clear beautiful morning September 4, 1971.  The bridge became a wonderful symbol as well as having provided a wonderful task.  Many times since,  that image has reminded me of the power of building something together – perhaps best of all, building bridges together.


[1] ...1971...Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Doria caused devastating floods in central and northeast New Jersey resulting in 138 million dollars damage. Newark set an all-time 24-hour record of 7.84 inches. The Princeton area had 11 inches in 36 hours. In southeastern Pennsylvania, high winds downed trees and power lines, and in New York City, heavy rains flooded streets and subways. Doria made landfall on western Long Island with wind gusts of 75 mph in southern New England. (David Ludlum) (Intellicast)

- from  American Meteorological Society

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