In 1883, engineer John Roebling* was inspired to build a bridge connecting New York with Long Island. Bridge building experts throughout the world thought this an impossible feat and told Roebling to forget the idea – it could not be done.
Roebling could not ignore his vision of this bridge. He knew, deep in his heart, it could be done. After much discussion and persuasion he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge in fact could be built.
Working together, father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished. Excited and inspired, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.
The project started well, but a tragic early accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington suffered injuries, which resulted in him not being able to walk, talk, or even move.
Critics felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roeblings were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged; his mind was still as sharp as ever.
After some thought, an idea struck him. Able to move only one finger, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife. He indicated she should call the engineers. Then he used a method of tapping her arm to direct the engineers – and the project was under way again.
For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife’s arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man’s indomitable spirit.
* John Roebling had also built the Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio, spanning the Ohio River.