The second Saturday of spring break, I took a day trip to San Francisco with two of my closest friends, Jake and John. Because I am finally old enough to legally drive them, we went without any parents to explore the city our own way, with no constraints. On this trip, I got to live out one of my life long dreams: to sing the Full House theme song at full volume, while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
This was actually my first time driving over the Golden Gate Bridge at all, so the elation of this experience was undoubtedly heightened. Although the focus of my first crossing of one of America’s most famous land marks was on a the cheesiest family sitcom of the 90’s, I did take some time to reflect on the beauty and grand historical significance of the Golden Gate Bridge as we sat on Baker’s Beach later that night, looking up at the perfect view of the illuminated architectural marvel.
On January 5th, 1933, in the height of the Great Depression, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, thanks to the affordable 27 million dollar plan proposed and publicly pushed by engineer Joseph Strauss. Prior to that, the only way to get across the Golden Gate Strait was by ferry, which was not convenient or sufficient for the increasing numbers of commuters in the California Bay Area. Four years later, on May 27th, 1937, more than 200,000 people showed up to the opening of what would be named one of the seven wonders of the modern world. They drove, ran, roller-skated, and even tap danced across what was the new longest suspension bridge in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge served as a symbol for the Bay Area’s progress in a time of American economic crisis because not only did it employ hundreds of jobless men, but it also provided a beautiful sight and was noted by many as “a vision of the future.”
Today, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures in America and believed to be the most photographed bridge in the world. The nine thousand foot long, seven hundred and fifty foot tall, and 887,000 ton weighing bridge is an architectural marvel. It’s suspension design makes it appear as if it is weightless, seemingly floating in mid-air. Despite it’s misleading name, the Golden Gate Bridge is actually a bright orange color, complimentary to the sparking blueness of the bay water. 25,000 LED light bulbs warmly illuminate every part of the overpass at night like a million fireflies migrating in the darkness. Along with all the glory associated with the Golden Gate Bridge, comes a tragic, eerie reality. It is the second most used suicide site in the world, with 1,600 confirmed deaths and counting. 95% of the time, jumpers hit the water at 75 miles per hour, shattering bones that puncture organs, killing them instantly. The other 5% drown, die from hypothermia, or in some cases, make it to shore, intensely traumatized. Thankfully, steps are being taken to bridge the gap between suicide and life. There are signs reading, “There is hope. Make the call” with special crisis hotline phones, many patrol officers on site, with experience in helping the emotionally unstable, and a $76 million suicide barrier plan approved just four months ago. In a place where beauty and sorrow intermix, there is hope that the Golden Gate Bridge will one day be free of it’s lethal beauty.
The Golden Gate Bridge of historic San Francisco, California holds an equal amount of magnificence in its past, present, and future. The bridge not only connects Marin to San Francisco, but also connects people together. As I drove over it for the first time, and appreciated it from further away on Baker’s Beach, I felt it’s power with the connection made between my friends and I. The Golden Gate Bridge most certainly has grandeur beauty, to quote Full House, “everywhere you look.” The Golden Gate Bridge- view from Baker’s Beach