What the Bridge Meant to Baltimore

Blue-collar workers crossed it. Families went crabbing around it. Teenagers celebrated new driver’s licenses by traversing it. And couples were known to get engaged near it.

Completed in 1977, the Francis Scott Key Bridge was a practical, final link to the beltway of roads that circled Baltimore Harbor, a much-needed solution to reduce Harbor Tunnel congestion. But for so many, it was more than that.

For some, it symbolized the working-class communities around it — for others, the city itself. The bridge also served as a reminder of a storied chapter in history: Near Fort McHenry, the bridge is believed by historians to be within 100 yards from where Key was held by the British during the War of 1812, when he witnessed the siege of the fort in September 1814 and wrote the poem that became the national anthem. (A star-spangled buoy commemorates the supposed spot.)

And the Key Bridge was simply a presence in people’s everyday lives. Since the collapse last week, residents have been processing the loss on many levels, from profound grief for the six workers who died, to concern for the immigrant communities affected by the port’s shutdown, to a sense of emptiness that has cast a pall over their memories.

Here are a few reflections from Baltimoreans, condensed and edited for clarity.

The makers

Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos.Credit…Timothy Nwachukwu for The New York Times

Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, physician who grew up on the east side of Baltimore

“There’s not a lot of things that tend to unite this city, unfortunately, but this is one of them. Every single Baltimorean felt that bridge fall down. That’s our London Bridge. That’s our Golden Gate Bridge. It was like a friend constantly saying hello to me in the morning.

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