Crowds Gather to Celebrate Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary

Thousands of people gathered along San Francisco’s waterfront and onto Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday to celebrate the famous span’s 75th birthday.

Fireworks explode over the Golden Gate Bridge on May 27, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif., in celebration of the bridge's 75th anniversary. The 1.7-mile steel suspension bridge, one of the modern Wonders of the World, opened to traffic on May 27, 1937. Photo: Toby Harriman/Flickr

Several thousand people had gathered along the waterfront by Sunday afternoon, Mary Currie, public affairs director for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District told Stuff (NZ).

“Everyone is biking and walking and looks very happy,” she said. “We’re off to a great start.” Since the 1.7-mile-long bridge opened in 1937, more than two-billion vehicles have crossed it.

The bridge was named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance of water to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, and championed by engineer Joseph Strauss in the 1920s, says USA Today.

Twenty-five years ago on the landmark’s 50th anniversary, 300,000 people swarmed San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate.

“Then it got kind of scary, because we realized we were trapped,” says a local resident who was on the bridge that day. “We were standing there, and then I said to my friend, ‘Dude, this bridge is moving.’

According to Mercury News, this year, due to safety concerns resulting from 1987’s flattening of the span by weight, the bridge put in a regular workday while massive crowds of admirers milled beneath the behemoth and gazed upon it’s ageless glory.

“It’s such an iconic structure, depending on the day or the hour, it just looks like it changes continuously,” San Francisco resident Daniel Sutphin.

“I came all the way from Denver for this,” said Becky Kaitz, gazing at the bridge from Crissy Field.

“I have a true love of this bridge. It’s majestic to me. I get strength from the bridge and the sea. I’m a landlocked girl and I need to get to my sea. This is the place to do that.” Kaitz said.

However, when the bridge was being constructed, it wasn’t welcomed with open arms. According to Reuters, some San Franciscans thought a bridge might ruin the view, according to historians.

Ferry operators and environmentalists also fought against it, as well as many engineers who doubted such a daring leap over a treacherous Pacific Ocean strait could be built.

Kevin Starr, author of the book “Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge,” said 2,000 related court cases were filed over nearly a decade.

“Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears; Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,” the words with which the head engineer for the bridge, Joseph Strauss, described the bridge in a poem he wrote to mark its completion in 1937. He died less than a year later.

Meanwhile in a stark contrast to the thousands of celebrants who gathered this year to mark the anniversary, members of the group the Bridge Rail Foundation, an organization dedicated to stopping suicide jumps from the bridge, erected a display of 1,558 pairs of shoes, representing the number of people who died in leaps form the bridge since it opened in 1937.

“It’s a symbol of how deep and serious this problem has been. We’re still losing 30 to 35 a people a year off the bridge,” said Paul Muller, a spokesman for the group.

Kevin Hines, who jumped from the span in 2000 in a suicide attempt and was among a few who survived, told Mercury News about his experience and the bridge.

“It is gorgeous, it will never not be gorgeous to me,” said Hines. “It is beautiful, but it is a harbinger of death for the 75 years it has been open.” Hines is now advocating for a suicide barrier.

“Those shoes, they represent people who are gone,” he said. “They are dead. Their families are grieving still. That is not a beautiful thing.”

On Sunday Golden Gate ferries were running again after a one-day strike that disrupted service across San Francisco Bay on Saturday.

Workers represented by the Inlandboatmen’s Union walked off the job on a day strike, forcing the cancellation of ferries operated by Golden Gate between Larkspur, Sausalito and San Francisco.

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