The Tappan Zee Era Ends with a Bang

The Tappan Zee Era Ends with a Bang

Jonathan Tenenbaum, Staff Writer

With the booming sound of collapsing steel and construction-grade explosives, the remaining portion of the once Tappan Zee Bridge plunged into the Hudson River last Tuesday morning, and an era ended. As flame and rubble faded into a towering gray cloud, as the bridge portion sank into a steel net salvaging the remnants of this historic passageway, a bridge died.

With the resounding echo of demolition, so loud it could be heard in the English wing of Tenafly High School, a legacy was cemented. The bridge, a beloved, although often sketchy, structure, symbolized the epitome of human architectural achievement. Built to cross the Hudson River at one of its widest points, it was constructed from 1952 to 1955. Twenty-five miles north of Midtown Manhattan, it spanned 16,013 feet, nearly three miles long. Saisimar Vempali, on Google, speaks his truth, “It is a very good bridge that I can drive on. It is a very good long structure between two masses of land that is over a body of water that I can drive over.” With glowing reviews like these, it is clear that the bridge will be remembered. Considering the memories of the bridge, tales of hearing the detonation, and controversy over the bridge renaming, it proves necessary to dive deeper into the explosion heard ‘round the Hudson.

It was third period, January 15th, approximately 10:48 am. Students in their language arts classes were hard at work. Some taking essays, others watching films, and another preparing for a quiz. As the sounds of shuffling, erasing, and scribbling faded for just a moment, out of the horizon came a rumbling and crashing sound, dampened yet powerful, the noise vibrating the windows ever so slightly, making a faint hum. The 672-foot structure came crashing down into the water, a historic event postponed for a week due to heavy winds.  For several hours, the sound remained unexplained to Tenafly students and teachers, the first articles regarding the event only published hours before, many startled and confused by what they had heard.

“My language arts teacher tried to tell us that it was just a noise from a truck nearby, but I knew that it must have been something more,” said John Aljian (’21). “I was less afraid or startled than just confused. I immediately began running through anything that could have made such a booming noise.”

“At first I thought it was thunder, but then I saw the sky was clear. When I thought of what else could have been that loud, I remembered the scheduled demolition, and realized it was the Tappan Zee Bridge exploding,” said Maya Dimant (’21).

“My first thought twas that it was an explosion nearby, and as much as I hate to say it, the first thing that came to mind was a school shooting,” said Mr. Whitehead. “My co-teacher, Mrs. Tang-Johnson, and I both looked at each other and mouthed, ‘What was that?’ That was in the middle of our senior CPB class, and after the class, I got the video my wife took of the bridge, and that’s when I put two and two together.”

The new bridge, officially named the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, is keeping with the tradition of governor bridge-naming, replacing the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge. However, the bridge hasn’t had the greatest track record thus far. Just days after the Tappan Zee was demolished, on January 22nd, a truck carrying shingles dropped its load while driving on the bridge, causing major delays. Two lanes were blocked and Interstate 87 backed up from Exit 9 in Tarrytown to the Palisades Interstate Parkway for nearly two hours. If all-holy bridge gods do exist, defying the skeptics, then perhaps, just maybe, the universe frowns upon the comically-named, seemingly unstable Tappan Zee.

Something many found even more interesting than the sound itself was the massive hordes of viewers lining up on all sides of the Hudson, from Tarrytown to Sleepy Hollow to Piermont. A sweet farewell to the beloved bridge, the crowds cheered, as they did what Americans do best—watch things blow up.

So as the Tappan Zee, the T-Zee, the T-to-da-Zee, T-Dot Z-Dot, the ‘Zee, or whatever you may call it, rests at the bottom of the river, forming a new home for aquatic wildlife, we may move on, but never forget the memories once had.

In the words of Joel Blechar, in his Google review of the bridge, “Rickety old thing lol.”