This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.
By Kira Hamilton
Since before I can even remember, my dad – who raised me to appreciate and love history, traveling, and nature as much as himself – had always gone on a white-water-rafting trip in West Virginia with his best friend aka my “uncle” Randy. He hasn’t been on a rafting trip since my younger sister was born, but he always talks about those trips just like old people talk about “the good ol’ days.”
I had always seen the kick-ass pictures and videos of my dad rafting (and also not-so kick ass pictures of people pulling him back in the boat after falling in the water…) and I had always heard the stories that my dad always told about the rafting trails, the waterfalls, the breath-taking sceneries, and of course, the famous bridge day. Bridge day Takes place in Fayetteville, West Virginia and it might as well be as big a holiday as Christmas. It is an annual festival that takes place every third Saturday in October where people from all over the country travel to parachute, bungie jump, and do other unthinkable activities off of The New River Gorge Bridge. The New River Gorge Bridge is “the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.” And let me tell you…that sucker is no joke!
This story starts post-hurricane Florence when my eldest sister, Elizabeth, was getting married on September twentieth of this year (2018). And so – come hell or high water (literally) – my dad, my younger sister, Emma, and myself all packed up and headed to West Virginia (where my sister currently resides) to attend the wedding, praying that our travel arrangements would not resort to any detours due to flooded roads, and road closures. Fortunately, we never ran into any of those obstacles.
While on the road, my dad suggested that we make a couple of stops in North Carolina to see the mountains, and then he suggested that we stop at the New River Gorge Bridge. Little did I know that this was the very bridge in which the famous stories about Bridge Day that my dad had always told me about took place. After about ten hours into our trip we finally approached the bridge. We proceeded to park at the visitors’ center and make our way to the “look-out” where people are able to view the bridge at a safe distance (away from the road).
OH MY STAIRS! Boy, was it a pain in the you-know-what to get there! I swear there was about 15 flights of stairs leading down to the viewing point. However, when I finally reached the final platform, my breath was taken and I was speechless. I was moved to tears by how beautiful the scenery was, but also because I was finally able to see and experience what my dad had been telling me about since I was a little girl. I know, I’m a sap but, honestly, it was truly amazing how my dad’s oral (hi)stories translated so effortlessly into the real-life depiction of the New River Gorge, in which he would white-water raft in, and the bridge that he always talked about.
“Info.” Bridge Day, officialbridgeday.com/bridge-day-info/.
McLaughlin, Louise. “New River Gorge Bridge.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/nrgbridge.htm