Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for August 23rd, 2022

Milwaukee Bridge Opens Unexpectedly, Kills Tourist

with 2 comments

Folks, last week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there was a shocking accident.

A man, Richard Dujardin — a retired writer and religious reporter who’d covered the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell — was visiting Milwaukee along with his wife, Rose-Marie. They were walking over the Kilbourn Avenue bridge over Milwaukee River. Rose-Marie had safely crossed, but her husband was behind her, slowly navigating the bridge, and looking at his iPad. The bridge unexpectedly opened, Mr. Dujardin grabbed for a railing and held on for a few minutes, but then plunged over seventy feet to his death.

This is hard to fathom for many reasons.

First, when bridges open and close in Wisconsin, there are lights, sirens, and alarms. These all functioned properly and should’ve warned Mr. Dujardin. But he was 77, hard of hearing, and focused on his iPad.

In other words, he didn’t hear or see anything until it was too late.

Second, the bridge was operated remotely. More of Milwaukee’s bridges appear to be operated this way, rather than having someone directly on site who would’ve been able to see that Mr. Dujardin was still on the bridge before opening it up. No one has any idea how the poor man was missed, as far as I can tell.

(This is one reason I waited almost a week to discuss this.)

Third, the remote operator apparently didn’t see that Mr. Dujardin was still holding on to the railing for a few minutes before he fell!

This seems to be an egregious lapse, to put it mildly.

Anyway, I have felt terrible ever since I heard about this accidental death. I know how it feels to wake up a wife and suddenly, without warning, end up as a widow.

More importantly to me than that, though, was the detail that his wife had already crossed the bridge. That meant she was in front of him. She could not help him when this happened.

Longtime readers of my blog probably know this, but that’s exactly the situation I was in when Michael collapsed on the lawn at our rented duplex years ago. Normally he’d have been in front of me, or we’d maybe be side-by-side holding hands. But this one day, he was behind me…and then he fell backward.

(Yes, I rushed forward, but I couldn’t do anything to break his fall. That I would’ve dislocated both arms had I somehow been in position to catch him makes no nevermind.)

I’m now nearing the eighteenth year of my widowhood. I still see Michael falling, me unable to catch him, in blinding technicolor.

I would imagine that Mrs. Dujardin may end up having similar flashbacks.

Anyway, I’m well aware that life is short, that we have no idea whether today is our last or if we have eighteen more years of widowhood in our future. (Or whatever.) We can only do the best with every day and honor the memories and the love we shared as we continue to go forward in whatever halting way we can.

I feel bad for Mrs. Dujardin. I wish I could help her.

(I couldn’t help Eric Flint’s widow, Lucille, either, though I hope someone is. And someday, maybe I’ll get to meet her again and attempt to show kindness as well as respect, ’cause she deserves it. But I digress.)

All I can ask you, right now, are two things:

Number one: Be kind.

Why do I say that? Well, many people are on edge due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, politics seems even more brutal than usual, and folks have forgotten they have more in common with each other than not.

Some have decided as the world is bleak, they have permission to be their worst selves. They spread misery.

Don’t do it. Refuse the impulse.

Be kind, instead.

Number two: Help the widows and widowers in your life, no matter how long — or short — it’s been since their spouses died.

See, I can tell you for a fact that I still want to talk about the most important person in my life, who’s ever been in my life. That’s my husband, Michael.

Other widows and widowers have said the same.

Too often, we who are grieving are told to just “move on” and in that spirit, we’re supposed to look toward the future and either forget the past entirely or suppress it.

I’m sorry. I refuse to do either. And most widows and widowers that I’ve spoken to over the years feel the same way.

We want to speak about our favorite people. Our formative influences. Our various experiences.

We need to do that. It’s part of who we are.

Hell, even those who’ve ended up finding a second great spouse to marry have said the same things. They can love their second husband (or wife) even better because of the experiences they had with their first spouse.

Otherwise, I hope that Mrs. Dujardin finds out why the remote bridge operator screwed up. She needs to know why that was the final day of her husband’s life.

But I also hope that the people around her will be kind and support her in her hours of grief. She will need that kindness and support for the rest of her life (whether it be short or long).