Wednesday, January 16, 2013

River Tales Project Underway

Peggy Huber of Gallipolis, OH tells her eyewitness account the 1967 Silver Bridge Tragedy in Point Pleasant, WV
Stopped at the traffic signal, she took the opportunity to look down and adjust the radio.  Seconds later she was startled by a very loud and strange noise.  Raising her head, she saw the bridge collapsing into the river.  It reminded her of broken tinker toys.  It happened so fast. 

Peggy Huber tells her story of witnessing the 1967 Silver Bridge Tragedy to the video camera as part of the University of Rio Grande River Tales Project, an effort to preserve local cultural heritage by collecting oral histories, which is being funded in part by the Ohio Humanities Council (OHC).  

Forty-six people died and nine others were seriously injured in the disaster that sent over thirty vehicles into freezing waters on Dec. 15, 1967.

Huber, who was teaching in Henderson, WV in the late 1960s, had just made a stop at a jewelry shop in Point Pleasant, WV. where the bridge was located before heading back to her family across the Ohio River in Gallipolis, OH.  Unfortunately, her return home was delayed.  

Frederick A. Bennett (left) of Point Pleasant, WV explains his connection to the disaster as members of the River Tales Project interview team--Mike Thompson (front), Julia Snow (middle) and Gregory A. Miller (back)--listen and record his tale.
Frederick A. Bennett recounts his story or at least the one he was told by his parents (now deceased) of him being an infant when their family crossed the bridge just minutes before the devastation took place.  His mother held him in her arms after getting out of their car to watch the Silver Bridge go down from the rivers-edge.  

Bennett heard this tale repeated so often while growing-up that he believes many of the choices he has made throughout his life have been deeply influenced by the incident. 

Both these personal narratives were taped recently at the Mason County Public Library in Point Pleasant,WV.  Members of the River Tales Project interview team will continue collecting more memories of the event from other individuals in the coming months. 

An additional video recording session is scheduled at the Mason County Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Any persons with information that would help shed light on the lasting impact of this tragedy on the local community are invited to tell their stories.

To schedule an interview, contact Gregory A. Miller, Director of Cultural Advancement for the university at 1.800.282.7201, extension 7030 or  

Walk-ins are welcome.  If unable to attend this next video recording session in Point Pleasant, special arrangements may also be made for participants to share their experiences.

All interviews will be stored digitally and published as part of a searchable online database and Website that will be featured and made available through the Davis Library’s Home Page later this spring.

Documentation of the 1967 Silver Bridge Tragedy is the first of several different aspects of our local Appalachian culture and history that URG River Tales Project hopes to preserve.  The intent of this oral history project is to build an ongoing and expansive Web-based archive that highlights wide range of community matters.

If you have any questions about this new digital initiative at the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College, please feel free to “Ask Us!

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