Construction Deaths

Mackinac Bridge
Photo Source: NOAA

I was watching a program on tv and they were talking about bridge construction. They began by showing you how the iron workers were walking across single beams that stretched between towers. One poor fellow was shown tripping and barely catching his balance. Anyone that saw that, must have had his or hear heart in their mouth, as they say. In my area many of the high steel workers are American Indian. Where this bridge was being constructed, it seemed that most of the iron workers were from the south and mid west. Be that as it may, when the bridge was finished, the announcer made a statement that the death toll had been low for this particular bridge. Death toll? I knew that this was a dangerous job, but it now sounded more like fighting a war. Five people had died in the bridge's construction. One man was beam walking and had a heart attack and fell into the ocean and drowned, another was a diver who was welding a piling and came up to fast and died. Two others were killed when a walkway that was being constructed gave way. The fifth person just fell while working. One guy was dragged by the wire weaving machine for several hundred feet, but an alert worker saw what happened and pushed the emergency button and he fell to the walkway, injured, but alive. The bridge I am talking about is the Mackinac Bridge

All this was terrible, I couldn't imagine a job where you knew that a certain percentage of your fellow workers or even yourself could be killed before the job was completed. It made me wonder how many people died while building some other famous landmarks?

Empire State Building
Photo Source: USGS

The Empire State Building has long been a monument and symbol of greatness in New York State. Unfortunately it has also been a great place to commit suicide. At last count, thirty two people have jumped to their death from it. From 1931 to 1972, it was the tallest building in the world. The building is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Don't take my word for this, it was declared as such by the American Society of Civil Engineers. What I find fascinating is the fact that after the death of Fay Wray in 2004, the building was completely darkened for 15 minutes. For those of you that don't know who Fay Wray was, she played in the original King Kong and was the actress that Kong brought to the top of the building and she was there when the planes shot him down. When this building was built, there were 3,400 workers building it. Several hundred of the high steel workers were from the Mohawk nation. It was built in only 410 days but 14 workers had died during its construction.

Statue of Liberty
Photo Source: NPS

The Statue of Liberty is another famous monument in the New York City area. There has only been one suicide from the great lady. This might be because it is much harder to get outside to jump, or it might be because people just don't think of this as a place to commit suicide from. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower, designed the inner structure for the statue. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the sculpture and the Americans built the base to hold the statue. There seems to have been no deaths credited to the erecting of the statue, or the building of the base.

Eiffel Tower
Photo Source: NASA

I think that everyone knows about the Eiffel Tower. I bet hardly anyone knows this, only one man died in building the tower when he fell off of it. This is practically a miracle for a structure so high. One thing that really impressed me was the fact that the technology used to build this tower was much older and yet the death record for workers was so good. The tower has 18,038 parts that had to be put together. There were 2.5 million rivets to be riveted. Eiffel was a very careful man who didn't want to see any of his workers hurt or killed. He designed the tower with only two floors and huge open space in between, which he knew was very dangerous to the workers, so he made moveable staging areas. His precautions worked almost perfectly, but as we know, nothing is perfect. The tower was actually constructed to be a radio tower. Construction was started in 1887 and finished in 1889. Today it sits proudly in Paris.

Golden Gate Bridge
Photo Source: DOT

The Golden Gate Bridge is a huge suspension bridge that spans an opening into San Francisco Bay. The distance between the towers is 4,200 feet. It was finished in 1937 and was the largest suspension bridge in the world at that time. It remained the longest suspension bridge until the Verazzeno Narrows Bridge was built. An engineer named Joseph Strauss decided that a bridge would be a lot more efficient than the current ferry that was being used. The bridge is so strong that it has had to only be closed three times due to the wind. Unfortunately for the builders of the bridge, it was a death trap. Eleven workers gave their lives so that traffic could flow smoothly today, yet it was felt that the amount of deaths were more than acceptable for building such a large bridge. A safety net had been erected under the bridge and it had prevented 19 others who fell, from being killed.

This brings me to the Great Pyramid in Egypt. To this day, no one is absolutely certain how it was built and built so precisely. They do know that towns were set up next to it so that the workers would be nearby. They also know that the workers were not slaves, but volunteers. Knowing the size of the blocks used and the fact that everything was animal or human powered, there must have been many accidents. Crude ropes might have given way, dropping huge stones on some of the workers, animals may have panicked and trampled people and maybe there were even cave ins along the way. One can only imagine how many workers died building this project?

I guess that all this points to the fact that we as humans, feel that things will happen to the other guy and not us and this feeling helps to account for some of what we do, of course good wages don't hurt.

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