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Yes, It's OK to Grieve a Structure

After the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in the early hours of March 26, 2024, the levels of loss for the city became glaringly apparent. The wave of mourning that I saw pour out was palpable and painful for this piece of infrastructure.

Beyond the human loss, which was foremost in most people’s minds, there was also the loss of this iconic structure. Folks were reaching out to me talking about their experiences going over that bridge through the years and how even if/when it gets rebuilt, it will not be the same….

Then some started asking me, “is that weird??” I mean, it’s a piece of concrete and steel, right?

Well, technically, yes. But it is much more than that.

Objects like the bridge are a part of the identity of your city and neighborhood. They are landmarks that tell the story and history of some of the greatest cities in the world. I’m thinking, too, of course, of the World Trade Center, which I watched collapse on 9/11, as I lived in NYC at that time. That was a much larger and horrific event, but it changed my home forever. To this day, when I take the train in and see that skyline, even though there is a new building there, I still think, “that ain’t right….” And it tugs at my heart each and every time.

Think of those landmarks you grew up with – those buildings, movie theatres, stadiums – restaurants, parks and skylines – they are part of your story, your childhood, your memories – and your identity. I wept when they demolished Tiger Stadium in Detroit in 2008 - when the last Borders Bookstore closed – when old trees are ripped out to “make room” for a building….

Because they rip out a piece of your story and your legacy.

These changes show us how we have aged and how our youth is but a whiff of a memory of speck of dust.

It is emblematic of how impermanent things are – and we are.

Even a vast expanse like the Key Bridge and the World Trade Center are vulnerable – for we are only humans.

Something that was a constant in your life is suddenly gone – and that’s real and valid and can be heartbreaking – it’s like any other loss we did not see coming.

So yes, it is completely natural to grieve a building or structure of any kind. It changes our relationship to ourselves and one another. Just like any other loss, gather with others and tell the stories, sing the songs and share. Just like with people, what is remembered, lives.



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