Grade VI Downtown Walking Tour

At the end of October, Messrs. Landesman and Krasnavage took their sixth graders downtown for a site seeing expedition focused on American history.  The boys visited the Brooklyn Bridge, African Burial Ground, Trinity Church, Fraunces Tavern, and the 9/11 Memorial.  Sixth grader Miles G. describes the Brooklyn Bridge:

First we went to the Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Work started in 1869 by John Roebling.  It was an amazing feat of engineering and was at the time the biggest bridge ever built.  But this amazing bridge came with a price: the bends.

The bends is a terrible disease that is caused by air bubbles in the bloodstream. Workers got it when working in a caisson.  What is a caisson you ask? It is a giant hollow wooden box that is lowered into the water beneath the river to make an air bubble where the workers can build.  The problem is, the bends occur beneath 30 feet of water, and the river was a lot deeper than 30 feet, so if a worker came up too fast he would be dead in days.

But in the first year of construction, disaster occurred.  A boat collided with the dock where John Roebling was standing and crushed his foot.  He died of a tetanus infection not long after. Work was resumed by his son, Washington.  He would continue building the bridge for many years.  But remember the bends? One day after working in the caisson, Washington came up the ladder a little too fast.  He got the bends and would be paralyzed for the rest of his life.

By this time people were calling the bridge cursed, but the husband was dead and the son was paralyzed so who would resume the building of the bridge? Emily, the wife of John and mother of Washington, finished the bridge.  She took instruction from Washington who spent the rest of his life in bed, unable to walk.  The bridge was completed in 1883.

We got out of the subway and walked across half of the bridge, as Mr. Landesman standing and holding on to the ropes pirate-style, told us about some of the buildings we could see.  He showed us a plaque of the bridge’s start and completion and the names John and Washington Roebling.  Notice who was left out? Emily. Women did not get much credit for things back in 1883.