. . . .
When: November 7, 1940
Where: Tacoma Narrows, Washington state
- The Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge linking Tacoma with Gig Harbor
- The estimated cost in 1940, $11 million — proposed by Clark Eldridge
- The Washington State Bridge Authority changed its selection of engineers. It went with Leon Moisseiff — who designed a suspension bridge that was lighter, narrower, and less than the proposed $11 million – $6.4 million.
- Spanned the Puget Sound
- Changed the drive from 2-1/2 hours to 11 minutes.
- Opening Day — July 1, 1940
- The waters of the Puget sound are over 200 feet deep.
- The rip tides flow through the sound 4 times a day.
- The total bridge length was just over a mile.
- Nicknamed “The Bouncing Bridge” and “Galloping Gertie” — “It swayed and rolled so much that . . . drivers would lose sight of cars ahead of them on the bridge.””The bridge earned the nickname “Galloping Gertie” for its unusual rolling, twisting behavior. Many drivers complained of seasickness.
Thrill-seekers often crossed the Tacoma Narrows just to experience the bridge’s unusual rolling, twisting behavior. Drivers say crossing the bridge was like riding a roller coaster.”
- There were attempts to control the sway through various structural additions.
- Approximately 260,000 vehicles cross over its short life.
- There were concerns over its “bouncy-ness” caused by the winds.
- Collapse: At approximately;y 10:55 a.m. Pacific Time, November 7, 1940, it collapsed — four months after its completion in 1940.
- “At one time, the elevation of the sidewalk on one side of the bridge was 28 feet above that of the sidewalk on the other side.”
- No lives were lost — a dog /a Cocker Spaniel – named “Tubby” was in the back seat of a car, and died in the fall. 
- The winds at the time were approximately 42 mph.
- “It became apparent that the bridge design, although graceful, had completely ignored the effects the wind would have on such a lightweight and narrow structure. The bridge was just too flexible. Once it began to twist sideways, the twist would lead to more twisting. Eventually the forces on the cables holding the roadway in place became too much.”
- A new bridge was constructed 10 years later. 
- Lessons Learned: After the collapse, a wind tunnel was used to test scale models of any proposed bridges. “The research that went into its construction (of the new bridge)changed the way suspension bridges were designed and built forever.” 
“At 10 a.m. on the morning of November 7, 1940, Professor F. Bert Farquharson was one of the few people standing on the world’s third longest bridge as it bounced and twisted, and he probably knew better than anyone else how she behaved in a gale. But this. “We knew from the night of the day the bridge opened that something was wrong,” he said later. Now something was very wrong and with each wave of steel and concrete, it seemed to be getting wronger.”
“Even before it opened to the public, four months earlier in July 1940, the center span, suspended from two massive towers, had a tendency to dance. In a light wind, slow rolling waves would ripple across the concrete and steel deck–with only minor damage, it seemed–sometimes raising and dropping it by as much as ten feet . . . ..Engineers sought a way to stop her swaying, and somebody came up with the nickname “Galloping Gertie,” after a popular saloon piano song, and it stuck. The bridge, officials assured the public it was safe. . .
Enter Farquharson. The 45-year-old engineering professor at the University of Washington was one of the region’s most respected authorities on the nature of bridges when he was hired by the state that summer. His job was to find a way to tame Gertie before it was too late. Just days earlier, in fact, he thought he had found a solution.
But at 10 a.m. on November 7, none of that mattered. For about an hour, Gertie had been undulating higher than usual, as the winds reached speeds of 40 mph. This was faster wind than Gertie was used to, but a speed that, her engineers thought, she had been designed for.”
Leonard Coatsworth was the last person to drive on the bridge.
“Half an hour earlier, at around 9:30 a.m., authorities had closed the bridge to traffic, just as one last car was making the crossing. Leonard Coatsworth, news editor for the Tacoma News Tribune, was on his way to his family’s summer cottage on the peninsula, with Tubby, his daughter’s Cocker Spaniel, in the backseat.
He quickly realized, Gertie’s bounce was much bigger than usual. Just past the midpoint, the undulations sent his car toppling over sideways. He climbed out through the window and immediately hit the concrete face first.
“I didn’t think of the dog when I first jumped out of the car,” he recounted afterwards. “When I did remember and started back, the bridge was bouncing so violently and breaking up so rapidly it was impossible to reach the animal.”
“Around me, I could hear concrete cracking. I started back to the car to get the dog, but was thrown before I could reach it. The car itself began to slide from side to side on the roadway. I decided the bridge was breaking up and my only hope was to get back to shore. On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards [1,500 ft; 460 m] or more to the towers… My breath was coming in gasps; my knees were raw and bleeding, my hands bruised and swollen from gripping the concrete curb… Towards the last, I risked rising to my feet and running a few yards at a time… Safely back at the toll plaza, I saw the bridge in its final collapse and saw my car plunge into the Narrows.”
. . . . .
Key Biblical Thoughts:
- too late
- sin will find you out
- life and death
- lost / saved alive
- trials of life
- a bridge that spans the great divide
- safety. . . .
. . . . .
Sermonic Example: There are several distinct ways that one can use illustrative material.
(use whatever you find useful in the above details)
Now listen to the description of that sole individual who was the last the cross the Tacoma suspension bridge as it was coming apart . . . .
“Around me I could hear concrete cracking. I started back to the car to get the dog, but was thrown before I could reach it. The car itself began to slide from side to side on the roadway. I decided the bridge was breaking up and my only hope was to get back to shore. On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards. . . or more . . . . to the tower. . .
My breath was coming in gasps; my knees were raw and bleeding, my hands bruised and swollen from gripping the concrete curb… Towards the last, I risked rising to my feet and running a few yards at a time… Safely back at the toll plaza, I saw the bridge in its final collapse and saw my car plunge into the Narrows.”
“My only hope was to get back to the shore,” and then as he makes his way back to safety, he looks back and sees this mammoth structure plunge into the waters below!
That will be the testimony of every believer in eternity — Our only hope was to get safely back to shore. That we could not make it across to the other side of that great divide on our own, and we ran back to the shores of His grace and safety. In eternity, we too will look back and realize that every human effort, by every person who lived, will have collapsed . . . . .
. . . .
Other Information & Links:
1. Information was taken from “From fail to win! : learning from bad ideas. Buildings and structures,” and “Fantastic feats and failures.”
2. “Tubby died when the bridge fell and neither his body nor the car was ever recovered. Coatsworth had been driving Tubby back to his daughter, who owned the dog. Coatsworth received $450.00 for his car (equivalent to $8,300 today) and $364.40 ($6,700 today) in reimbursement for the contents of his car, including Tubby.”
3. “Today, the remains of the bridge are still at the bottom of Puget Sound, where they form one of the largest man-made reefs in the world.”
. . . .