Latest Casualty Is Symbol Of City's Heyday And Unity

Latest Casualty Is Symbol Of City's Heyday And Unity
April 13th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Latest Casualty Is Symbol Of City's Heyday And Unity

Latest Casualty Is Symbol Of City's Heyday And Unity
New York Times
April 13, 2007
By Alissa J. Rubin
BAGHDAD, April 12 — There is not much left in Baghdad that all its residents, Sunnis and Shiites, laborers and professors, consider their own. But the Sarafiya bridge, flung across the Tigris, tied the city together, literally and metaphorically.
When the bridge was destroyed early Thursday morning by a truck bomb that collapsed a large section into the river, Baghdad mourned. People who had crossed the bridge every day to go to their jobs on the opposite side gathered on the riverbanks and stood weeping as if they had lost someone they loved.
More people have died in many other bombings, but the destruction of the bridge struck at the city’s soul, at its lingering romance with an all but vanished image of Baghdad as a Paris of the Middle East.
The steel bridge, which spans a stretch of river about 500 yards wide, was built by a British company at a time when foreigners from all over the world came to the city to study and work. Construction started in 1946, and it was completed in 1951, while the British-installed monarchy was in place. Built to accommodate train tracks as well as a roadway for cars, the bridge linked Baghdad’s two main rail stations and was one of the city’s main transit points across the Tigris.
Most of the city is divided now, with the west bank of the Tigris predominantly Sunni and the east side predominantly Shiite. But so far the neighborhoods on either side of the Sarafiya bridge have been spared the worst of the violence, and both are still mixed as so much of the city once was.
Every Baghdadi seemed to have a memory of the bridge on Thursday.
An engineer for the General Committee for Trains and Bridges remembered coming to the city from the country as a child and standing in awe before the marvelous bridge. “I used to walk nearby the bridge along with my cousins dazzled to see the train moving on the track, puffing out the smoke backward,” he said.
An Iraqi reporter described crossing it to go to art school every day. “Sometimes alone or with a girlfriend,” he said. “Sometimes I used to spend hours looking at the river from above.”
Riyadh Yosif, a day laborer who walked across the bridge to look for work in the industrial area on the other side of the river each morning, described feeling utter shock when he rushed out after he heard the bomb. “We went out to see what happened, and the bridge, which I loved so much, I found was destroyed.”
He began to cry. “I wish they had killed one of my children rather than destroying the bridge, which I consider part of my heart.
“This bridge is so important to us. We cross it every day to look for work. What shall we do now? They have destroyed us as well.”
Ahmad Fadam and Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting.