Bridge Built with One Finger

Originally posted here.


Broklyn Bridge


The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US. It stretches for 1.825km over the East River, connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn on Long Island. On completion, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, it was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge in an 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and formally so named by the city government in 1915.  The Brooklyn Bridge has 6 lanes, and is sheduled for it’s first rehabilitation exercise in 2009. Since its opening, it has become an iconic part of the New York skyline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

While many bridges built around the same time have collapsed and crumbled, the Brooklyn Bridge still stands tall and strong, upholding one of the rarest of human values required for achievement. This bridge is not just a bridge, it’s a bridge with touching lessons, it’s the hallmark of one man’s determination and indomitable spirit, a tribute to one woman’s love and devotion, and a story of team work and faith by the Engineers that constructed it. The same world that said it can’t be done, celebrated it. What has the world shown you can’t be done?

In 1870, a creative engineer named John Roebling got inspired to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with the Long Island. Bridge building experts world over however told him that his idea was impossible. They told him it wasn’t practical and it couldn’t be done. They adviced him to forget it. Roebling however could not ignore the vision he had in mind of this bridge. He thought about it all the time, and knew in his heart that it could be done. He just had to share the dream with the right person.

Thoughts: Remember, novices built the ark, and experts built the titanic. The real motivation for doing what you want to do shouldn’t be what people said. Everything in the world today started as an idea, even you. When an idea is yours, it’s bugging. Atimes we let it just slip away and die, atimes we rise to the challenge. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?”. If it resonnates with a deep why, and you know in your heart it can be done, go for it!

He shared this idea with his son Washington who was an upcoming Engineer. He managed to persuade him that it could be done, and together, they started this project. Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.

The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington was injured and left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.


1. All you need to get going on your dream, is the right patnership, the right friend, the right ally, the right colleagues. Ideas divide in the presence of the wrong person, and multiplies in the presence of the right people. If you idea keeps getting weaker when you discuss it, you are talking to dream killers.

2. All dreams have their set backs. Every journey it’s bus-stops, junctions or roundabouts. Sometimes they are mere setbacks, in rare occassions, the visioneer dies. This is the highest form of setback that can ever happen to any dream – the demise of the dreamer. How bad is your setback?

The accident made the headliines of private discussions – “We told them it couldn’t be done, it’s foolish to chase crazy visions, this useless project cost them their lives”. Tongues wagged. Nonetheless, what had happened was not sufficient to dissuade Washington from achieving the objectives they had set out to achieve. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged and still had a burning desire to complete the bridge and his mind was still as sharp as ever. He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment. It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. All he could do was move one finger and he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife.

Thoughts: Where there is a will, there is always a way. Ways cease when wills die. It may require fresh thinking, it may require a fresh breath of inspiration from God, but once the will to succeed exists, a way can always be created. With his back on the bed, unable to talk or walk, this man used one finger to build a 1.8km bridge.

Washington tapped his wife’s arm and the project began. The wife had to learn non verbal communication, learn some engineering and painstakingly understand and translate what the husband was communicating to the on-site engineers.

For 13yrs, his wife, Emily took tapped out instructions from her husbands functional finger, until the bridge was completed. When the bridge was completed, she was the first person to ever cross the bridge. Against the highest odds ever stacked against any known project, the world’s possibly strongest and long standing suspension bridge was built, by wills of steel, an indomitable spirit, a wifes love and devotion, a teams unity and faith and loads of patience, determination and perseverance.

Thoughts: Armed with words, we find it difficult to communicate effectively with one another, this woman took instructions with finger tapping, from a near commatose husband. It didn’t happen in 3 weeks, it took 13yrs and they must have had all sorts of setbacks, but they completed the project. Analysis of this project shows, that the bidge was designed to be six times stronger than was required. Often when we face obstacles in our day-to-day life, our hurdles seem very small in comparison to what many others have to face. The Brooklyn Bridge shows us that dreams that seem impossible can be realised with determination and persistence, no matter what the odds are.



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