God doesn’t miss a thing— he’s alert to good and evil alike. Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. Proverbs 15:3-4 (The Message)
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of crossing Tampa Bay on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The first span of the bridge was completed four years before I was born; as an eleven year old, I watched the second span’s construction. Because we lived in Pinellas County, but both sets of grandparents lived in Manatee County, travel across the steel cantilevered bridge was frequent. At its highest point, the bridge was constructed of steel grating that hummed beneath the car’s tires. That was before I developed my fear of heights and as the bridge was about halfway in our travels, I was usually lulled to sleep by that sound. Not everyone was so used to its height or length. Travels over the bridge were always an adventure for college friends who came home with me for a visit as by that time, my family had moved to the south side of the bridge. Early on the morning of May 9, 1980, just a few weeks before graduation, I got a call from my dad. “I just wanted you to know I am okay,” he said. “Okay from what?” I wondered until he told me to turn on the news. At 7:30 that morning, a terrible storm crossed Tampa Bay. During that time, a freighter, the Summit Venture, collided with one of the bridge’s support columns causing the southbound span of the bridge to collapse. Ten cars and a Greyhound bus fell 150 feet into the water killing 35 people. My father was heading to work over the bridge in the north bound span of the bridge seconds before the ship hit the piers. In case I heard about the accident, he wanted to reassure me that he was okay. Seeing the images on the television was surreal as the weather cleared exposing the shattered bridge that I had crossed thousands of times. If the accident had occurred in the afternoon when my father was headed south or if the ship had been coming from the other direction and hit the north bound span, there is a good chance that my dad would have died with the others. I went to class that day in shock. When I saw my friends and professors, the first thing I said was my dad’s okay. When they looked at me with puzzled expressions, I realized that they didn’t know what I was talking about and didn’t understand the significance of my father’s near miss. It wasn’t that they didn’t care about me. It was just that they didn’t know the import of the event in my life. It made me realize that things happen to people but I might not understand why they are so earthshaking. Unless I really pay attention, I will likely not catch its significance. It is also a reminder to be careful what I say to someone because I don’t know all the details of their life. Thankfully, God knows everything and I can depend on Him to always understand.