Remembering ‘the 46’ some 46 years later

By Beth Sergent

December 17, 2013

POINT PLEASANT — Each Dec. 15, time stands a little more still in Point Pleasant and the surrounding area.

On Dec. 15, 1967, 46 people lost their lives as a result of the collapse of the Silver Bridge. Though the disaster happened 46 years ago, the area still bears the scars.

Ruth Fout, a co-author of “The Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967” and curator of Silver Bridge artifacts at the Point Pleasant River Museum along with sister Martha Fout, said the event connects with and intrigues people from across the area and beyond. Ruth said she’s seen visitors repeatedly travel to the River Museum to pay their respects to victims and study the event - these visitors have come from as far away as California, North Carolina and even Arkansas. These people had no connection to the disaster other than they were fascinated by the story.

“It is amazing how it (the disaster) affects people,” Ruth said.

Then, there are those who have an intimate connection with the disaster who visit the River Museum, including families of the victims.

“For some families, they come here and it gives them closure,” Ruth said.

Ruth said just this year, a gentleman arrived at the museum with his wife and after speaking to him, he revealed he was on the bridge when it fell and lost both his wife at the time and infant daughter. He spoke about being out in his own boat looking for his family members which weren’t found until 54 days after the bridge fell. Ruth asked his name be kept confidential out of respect for the man who also donated photos of his wife and daughter to the River Museum which has a collection of photos honoring the victims. Ruth said she has photos of 38 of the 46 victims.

Both Ruth and Martha also videotape the stories of survivors, family members and anyone with a story to tell. The museum also takes written accounts of that awful day in December and the days which followed to place in its archive.

“That tells you background as opposed to just looking at a picture,” Ruth said. “People tell you what put them on the bridge and what people said to their families before they left.”

Last year, the River Museum had a large remembrance ceremony for the 45th anniversary. This year the museum was open on Dec. 15 though no special ceremony is planned. However, the anniversary is always recognized in some way by staff. Ruth guessed when the 50th anniversary rolls around, another large remembrance event will be planned.

“The Silver Bridge Disaster will forever be a piece of history and will forever be remembered by the River Museum,” Ruth promised.