It’s Always the Engineers Fault

In 1938 the city of Tacoma Washington hired a man by the name of Clark Eldridge to build a suspension bridge across the Tacoma Narrows over Puget Sound to Gig Harbor.  The city, however, balked at Eldridge’s initial design.  Its estimated price of 11 million was too costly and its aesthetics paled in comparison to the Golden Gate Bridge, which this bridge would rival.  As a result, Eldridge’s design was handed off to Leon Moisseiff, an east coast engineer and a co-designer of the Golden Gate bridge.  Moisseiff had made quite a name for himself during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and was given a great deal of credit for its aesthetic appeal.  In a few months Moisseiff produced a revised design, based on Eldridge’s design, but 3 million dollars cheaper and just as importantly, much easier on the eyes.  The city went with Moisseiff’s model and on July 1st 1940 the bridge was completed and opened to the public.

Let’s take a step back before we continue.  During construction of the bridge, the workers noticed that the bridge had a propensity to hop and sway in the wind.  Eldridge’s original design included 25 foot trusses under the bridge to provide strength and to counter the wind.  Moisseiff replaced these trusses with 8 foot girders, which eliminated the ugly look of the trusses and reduced the price significantly.  Moisseiff argued that the “main cables would be sufficiently stiff to absorb enough static wind pressure to stabilize the structure”.  Despite these assurances, the bridge quickly garnered the nickname “Galloping Gerdy” in recognition of the way it moved in the wind.  Many pedestrians would pay the 10 cent pedestrian toll to walk across the bridge just to have the carnival ride experience the bridge offered.

All the fun and games came to an end just four months later on a windy November day when Galloping Gerdy caught a stiff breeze and bucked like an unbroke stallion and crashed into Puget Sound.  “The bridge and Moisseiff’s reputation as an engineer were both a total loss.”   Moisseiff died a broken man three years later.

In February 2020 President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban agreeing to withdraw U.S military forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to prevent extremist activity in the country, prisoner swaps, and discussions with the Afghan government to develop a power sharing agreement.  In April 2021, just weeks before the agreed upon date, newly elected President Joe Biden announced that his administration was not going to adhere to the agreement indicating that “withdrawal of US forces should be absolute, rather than provisional on conditions inside Afghanistan”.  Reports from the intelligence community warned that the decision risked retaliation by the Taliban and they were likely to make gains on the battlefield as a result of the cancellation of the agreement.  At the time of the announcement President Biden said “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline . . . just in terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out.  And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”

As concerns about the progress of the troop withdrawal began to leak, President Biden took to the podium to offer assurances.  “There will be no circumstance where you will see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States.”

On Friday, August 6th 2021 the Taliban began an offensive against the Afghan Government forces.  By Tuesday, more than half the country had been overrun.  By the following Sunday, American citizens were being evacuated by helicopter from the roof of the U.S embassy.

Two days later, President Biden finally made an appearance to address the situation in Afghanistan.  “The buck stops with me.”  He said, as he pointed out that no one told him that the Tacoma bridge was hopping and swaying before he squarely blamed the collapse on his predecessor Clark Eldridge.

 

One thought on “It’s Always the Engineers Fault”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *