I began my day in the Fremont section of Seattle. My plan for this morning was to head back to the downtown area to checkout something I had seen, but did not have time to tour yesterday. On my way back into the city I stopped at the Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union. The park is located on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant. While the park itself is nothing great it does offer great views of Lake Union, the Aurora Bridge and downtown Seattle…..
Unfortunately, while beautiful and historic, the Aurora Bridge (also known as the George Washington Memorial Bridge) also has a dark side. The bridge is known as a “suicide bridge“. Since it’s construction in 1932 there have been over 230 suicides from the bridge, with nearly 50 occurring between 1995–2005. The first suicide happened in January 1932 before construction was even completed. As I strolled across the bridge last night I was completely unaware of its dark history and the hundreds of people who had chosen to make this walk their last. So sad.
I came across this article as I was writing this post, The Girl on the Bridge. It’s about the history of the bridge, a girl who jumped in 2011 and a man who led a group of activist to have a fence constructed on the bridge to deter people from jumping.
After spending a little time walking around the park and enjoying the very nice weather I left Gas Works Park and drove to the downtown area. Once I found parking I walked a few blocks the “event” that I eluded to at the beginning of this post. As I mentioned above, I saw this yesterday as I was walking back to my car but they said it would take about 1:30 hours to go through so I had to wait until today to go through the Forced From Home (Google) exhibit.
Forced From Home is a free exhibit presented by Doctors Without Borders (webpage, Wiki). If you’re not familiar with Doctor’s Without Borders it is an international humanitarian organization that provides health related assistance (doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators) to millions of people in over 70 countries around the world. Comprised of mostly volunteers they primarily serve in war-torn regions and developing countries affected by endemic diseases.
While I was familiar with Doctor’s Without Borders I had was not familiar with the Forced From Home exhibit. Forced From Home is a free, interactive exhibit “to raise public awareness about the experience of the world’s more than 65 million refugees and internally displaced people”. It was interesting that they just happened to be in Seattle as I was passing through in light of the “international refugee” message I had heard at Summit Drive Church in Kamloops BC Canada a couple of weeks ago (click here to read post).
When you arrive they give you an information card with your new identification as a refugee from one of the many impacted countries. For the next 1:30 hours you travel through several “stations” where you get a small glimpse of the tremendous challenges that refugees face everyday as they struggle to provide for their families, keep them together and even to survive. The exhibit sheds light on many aspects of life as a refugee such as the physical, emotional, political, legal and financial challenges as well as the widespread corruption by many of the people who “help” the refugees (click here to read more about the exhibit). As much as it can the Forced From Home exhibit tries to provide a window into the refugee life by educating those of us will never know what it’s like to be a refugee or to be forced from our homes and leave everything we have and everything we know behind.
Please click here to learn more about the Forced From Home exhibit, Doctor’s Without Borders and the current refugee situation facing our world.
Oh and one last thing….the Forced From Home exhibit is staffed by people who have served in the field with Doctor’s Without Borders. So each of them have witnessed first hand the challenges and struggles that they speak of at the exhibit. After I completed the exhibit I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of them. Listening to their stories the love and compassion they had for these people was obvious. As we were talking I couldn’t help but recall the conversation I had with Nuran, the International Red Cross first responder, I met in Australia last year (click here to read that post).
When I left the Forced From Home exhibit I walked up the street and stopped at a Whole Foods for lunch. After that I walked back to my car and headed south on I-5 toward Tacoma. Unfortunately, after 5 miles or so I ran into another Pacific Northwest traffic jam! At least this one only 45 minutes or so vs. the 2 hours I sat in Vancouver. I tell you, I do love this natural resources and beauty in this area but I’d go out of my mind if I had to deal with this traffic on a regular basis. Anyway. Once I made it through the traffic I stopped in Tacoma to get some groceries and then turned northwest heading toward Olympic National Park.
Shortly after getting on highway 16 I came to a large bridge. Although I didn’t see a sign I guessed it was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (images). Although I have known the story of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for a long time and I knew it was somewhere around here I didn’t know exactly where it was or that I would be driving over it today.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was completed in July 1940 with great fanfare. A parade over the bridge was actually held the day the it was opened. Little did the anyone know it would collapse within 4 months! The bridge had a fatal design flaw that caused it to “move” during times of high wind, something that is very common in this narrow channel. It moved so much that construction workers nicknamed it “Galloping Gertie”. The final blow came on November 7, 1940 and it was recorded on film. Here’s the original film of the collapse along with “dramatic” 1940’s music and narration…”oh the humanity”! 🙂 One of the comments on Youtube said, “This guy’s narration gives a whole new meaning to the term “suspension bridge”. (ha ha)
As I continued on highway 16 I came to the Sinclair Inlet, the Naval Base Kitsap (images, Facebook) and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton WA. Once again, I had no idea this was here so I took a little detour around the shipyard (the outside of course) to checkout the ships. Pretty cool.
The aircraft carrier in the picture is the USS Kitty Hawk (images). I thought this was kind of cool for two reasons: first, Kitty Hawk is a small town on the coast of my home state North Carolina; second, the USS Kitty Hawk was built and commissioned in 1961 at the Philadelphia Naval Yard which is 20 or so miles from where I have lived for the past 22 years. The Kitty Hawk was decommissioned in 2009 and scheduled to be dismantled; however, I recently read and article saying the Navy is considering putting it back in service in response to President Trumps call to “to build a 12-carrier navy”. So her days roaming the open seas may not yet be over.
When I left the Bremerton area the sun was beginning to set. I drove for a while and picked up the famous Highway 101 that follows the Pacific coast over 1500 miles from northern Washington to Los Angeles California. I drove until I reached Port Angeles WA. When I reached the outskirts of Port Angeles I stopped to get a few things and ate dinner. After dinner I continued on 101 and came to the main street in Port Angeles where I saw a banner over the highway announcing the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival. Now, something about me….I LOVE small town fairs and festivals! I love the unique and (sometimes) hokey local traditions, markets, foods, music, etc. And there is nothing better to me than when you just happen upon one….like today. So I didn’t hesitate to stop and check it out.
Unfortunately I missed the vendors and live stage music but the crab dinner under the big tent was in full swing. Of course, had I known this was here I wouldn’t have eaten dinner just 10 minutes ago but it was fun just to walk around and see the different foods and all of the local people have a great time. I LOVED their crab caps!
I hadn’t originally planned to stay in Port Angeles for the evening but after walking around for a while it looked like a fun place to hang out for a while. So I figured why not and I walked into a pub to grab a pint and listen to a local band.
Today was an interesting day. Although I didn’t have any great destinations or activities planned the hodge-podge of things that I came across made for a wonderful day of new experiences, new knowledge and new friends. All-in-all it was a good day in the state of Washington.
So until next time…..
“See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see out of fear, conformity or laziness. See the whole world anew each day!” – Arthur Mendelson (from the movie Patch Adams)