The Wilmington City Council approved a resolution to support the replacement of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge a few days ago. The news didn’t sit quite right with me.
I’m sentimental. To me, and undoubtedly to others, the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is a landmark. The steel bridge was completed in 1969 and carries traffic from 74/76, 17, and 421 into New Hanover County.
Mama was only four years old when the bridge was finished. I doubt she remembers the ferry from Peter Point to Market Street that it replaced.
By the time I was in kindergarten, I’d traveled across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge more times than I could count. Sometimes, I rode with Daddy, others with Mama. But most of the time, Papaw carted me back and forth from Canton to Wilmington.
Looking back, I feel sorry for them – especially Papaw. I wasn’t an easy kid to travel with. I talked a lot and stayed up until we got where we were going.
“Are we there yet?” was my favorite question on the seven-hour trip from Canton to Wilmington. I probably asked it a million times, driving all the adults crazy.
Papaw broke me of that by teaching me local landmarks. I knew we were back in Canton when we reached the Hotspot gas station – and I knew we were in Wilmington once we crossed the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.
Excitement filled my belly each time I spotted the bridge looming over the Cape Fear. It was a portal, and just on the other side was Wilmington. Mama. Grandma and Grandpa. Aunts, uncles, and cousins. The beach.
I still get that feeling when 74 melts into the 54-year-old bridge that leads into the Port City. It’s an overwhelming sense of being home. That sensation will be lost for me and the girls once the bridge comes down.
I’m holding onto the hope that the Wilmington City Council changes their minds. The city has lost more than its fair share of cultural landmarks over the years – it doesn’t need to lose another.