Raised on the beach as I was meant that learning to swim was a priority. I barely remember learning, I just remember always knowing how to do it, as natural as breathing. The saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico buoyed me, and I felt safe there, at ease, at home.
But just after my eleventh birthday, the freighter Summit Venture rammed the Sunshine Skyway bridge’s southbound span, collapsing the center and taking 35 lives, and my comfort with our warm, friendly water vanished completely. The northbound bridge was spared and turned into a two-way bridge while the new Skyway, the longest bridge with a cable-stayed main span, was built.
Driving over that remaining bridge meant a clear view of the disaster; we saw it for years while they were busy building the new one, watching it slowly deteriorate, and then watching as it was demolished in stages. The ends of the shattered bridge hung over the water, huge chunks of concrete that we used to drive over on at least a weekly basis, dangling precariously by nothing more than rusty rebar.
The photos were impossible to escape, the stories of those killed and the images of the car that managed to stop just at the edge were burned into every Southwest Floridian’s consciousness. And for a kid with a hell of an imagination it was life-changing.
I still can’t drive over the new bridge without looking over at the old one and seeing the frayed ends superimposed over the fishing piers they turned the wreckage into. And when I have nightmares, it is always of my car heading into water.
Readers of Catching Genius will recognize the story, though plenty of the facts were changed for the book, and will now also know how Connie and Estella’s pivotal scene evolved. And it is no small coincidence that Connie is named as she is (Lady Constance Chatterley, who drowns in her own way) or that The Awakening by Kate Chopin is one of the featured books in the library.
Do we all write our nightmares, and if so, does it purge them for us? The answer for me is no, so far. Perhaps I just haven’t written it well enough to do so yet.
6 Replies to “Let It Run All Over Me by Deb Kristy”
Those photos are stunning- I cannot imagine. I think as writers we can share our nightmares- but they always belong to us.
Wow. Yes, I think most of us write our nightmares, or spend a lot of energy trying NOT to. I don’t think it purges them, not so far, but communicating them to the world can sometimes help. Even if it doesn’t help us, maybe it helps someone who reads and sees themselves, or sees their fears articulated.
How I enjoy being privy to the personal/meaningful items that a writer places into their work. Thank for sharing these two tidbits, Kristy.
Sheesh, I never liked bridges before . . . good think I didn’t see this as an impressionable kid. And while I certainly did write my nightmare in my first novel, it’s still my deepest fear. I think, though, that it’s when we reach into those dark parts of ourselves that we write with honesty and passion.
Kristy, I’m pretty sure this is the same bridge that’s haunted me since childhood. Driving over any bridge now calls to mind that day the cars dropping over one after another, unaware until it was too late that the car in front of them was driving into nothing. And then that last car, tipping, tipping. Everyone here in Boston wonders why I’m not so eager to make the trek to Cape Cod — it involves driving over a bridge.
Wow. What an amazing post. And the photos… I have chills.
I write my nightmares again and again, in different disquised forms, and no, they haven’t gone away. Maybe I understand them a little more, but they’re still just as strong…
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