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In The Shadow of a Giant

Somewhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania, deep in the Appalachian Mountain range a giant towers over the small community of Nicholson.  Completed in 1915, the Tunkhannock Viaduct often referred to as the “Nicholson Bridge” has proudly stood for 96 years, reminding us of a time when private industry and hard work accomplished great things in America.  The bridge is 2,375 feet long, 240 feet tall, and contains 169,000 cubic yards of concrete and 1,240 tons of steel. It was the largest reinforced concrete structure of its kind when it was opened in 1915 and held that title for 40 years.  It is an engineering marvel and an awe-inspiring structure to see.

This bridge is located about five miles from where I grew up.  As a child I stood many times in its shadow captivated by its massive size.  As I grew older, my respect for this amazing bridge and the people that constructed it grew deeper.  It took 500 men three years to build what many called one of the wonders of the modern world.  It was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen an American civil engineer.  At the time the bridge was built, America was not yet viewed as a world power.  Many of the nations in the world saw us as a young and naive country and perhaps that was our greatest strength.  We believed we could accomplish anything because we weren’t told we couldn’t.  From 1900 to 1941 some of our nation’s greatest architectural and building achievements were accomplished.

During this period the list of our nation’s great successes included the completion of the Panama Canal (1914), the building of the Nicholson Bridge (1915), the construction of the Empire State Building (1931), the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge (1937), and the carving out of Mount Rushmore (1941).  Four out of five of these remarkable accomplishments were viewed as wonders of the modern world.  America was on the move and private industry was leading the way in innovative design and thought.  We were on top of the world and still humble enough not to realize it.  This was the generation of our great grandparents and our grandparents.  This was a generation who saw obstacles as opportunities and overcame challenges with hard work and perseverance.  Over 5,600 American workers died completing the Panama Canal, but this did not deter them.  They were the giants in their day and since the World War II we have been standing in their shadows.

Below is a video clip that will give you an idea just how awesome the Nicholson Bridge is.

Today we live in an environment where private industry has been shackled by a federal government that appears to be more intent on controlling the means of production than unleashing the power of a free market system that propelled a young naive nation to greatness.  They have chosen a path that picks winners and losers instead of one that allows the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive.  We have become a nation of consumers and produce very little.  We are no longer the trail blazers leading the way.  Instead we have become followers who accept mediocrity as the norm.  We have become ignorant of our founders, our constitution, and our free market system.  What will it take to wake us up again and be great again?  Will it take a stock market crash?  Will it take the collapse of our dollar?  Or is it just easier to let other people think for us and live in the shadow of giants?

Maybe it’s time to roll up our sleeves, get back to work and achieve great things again so that one day our grandchildren will look back at this time and say they were giants in those days.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!


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  • Steve Dennis February 9, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    When you look back at how tough people had it just to survive and how hard the people worked to get by and you see what they accomplished and then you look at where we are today it makes you wonder how we got to this point. While progress is supposed to make life easier it seems as if we have become lazy along the way and it is going to be a hard sell at this point to convince the people that the government isn’t the answer to all of our problems.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 6:24 AM

      Thanks for the comment Steve. I agree that we have indeed drifted off course and become so dependent on the government. I think we have forgotten what freedom is.
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  • Mike February 9, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    Great article John. You know, it’s funny how you look at things we built way back then and you wonder how they were able to do it without all the modern technology we have today. I remember my old neighbor telling me how he used to walk 18 or 20 miles to work back in the depression. He was a Carpenter foreman working on the TVA. You won’t find that kind of commitment to provide for one’s family today.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 8:47 PM

      Great story about the carpenter Mike. I think a large number of people today would wait for the government to provide for them. This is our biggest problem today. We are so willing to trade our liberties for government scraps.

  • KingShamus February 9, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Amazing stuff.

    I think we might–might–be on the way to reclaiming some of that old can do spirit. The utter lameness of laziness is starting to become obvious to some Americans.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 8:48 PM

      Thanks KS. I hope you are right about founding that spirit again. I feel like it is going to take much more pain before people finally wake up.

  • Infidel de Manahatta February 9, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Unfortunately the indoctrination by liberals of the past 40 years, “Don’t judge. Don’t penalize losers. Scores on tests aren’t fair. The purpose of education is to build self-esteem” has reaped its bad seed.

    Can we recover from this? I don’t know. Once a nation starts the slippery slope to socialism it’s very difficult.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 8:50 PM

      I agree Manhattan, once we start heading down the path of dependency it is awful hard to break the habit.

  • Jim Gourdie February 9, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    I think, John, that the American Spirit is still there, although government is a major road block in more ways than one. Tremendous achievements have been and are being made in the high-technology areas where government has yet to stick their nose-in. Big government has altered the rules many cases. Companies think, “Why should we take this risk on ourselves. Let’s get government involved and they will subsidize or guarantee profitability. Let the tax payer take the risk.” It’s heads they win, tails we lose.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 8:52 PM

      This is why the corporations are in bed with government. They would much rather risk our dollars than their own. Until this mindset changes in Washington I fear we will continue to lose our liberties, become more dependent on the fed, and keep pace with our current march towards tyranny.

  • Bunkerville February 9, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    What a great post. I needed that! So true, the “can do” attitude. One only look at Ground Zero to see how far off the track we have gone. As I recall, the Empire State building, the NY Subway system, were completed at lightening speed, months and years, not decades.compared to what it would take now.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 8:56 PM

      I blame much of it on government regulation. No longer do companies have the incentive to reach for the sky. As long as they know they will be bailed out by the taxpayer, why take risks. I think we can get it back, it’s going to take work though.

  • Reaganite Republican February 9, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Neat story John, thx for sharing
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  • Karen Howes February 9, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    This is a very good and important point John– we don’t produce anymore. In fact we’ve become a society that punishes productivity and rewards the opposite.
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    • John Carey February 9, 2011 at 9:40 PM

      Thanks for stopping by Karen. I wanted people to see what we used to do in this country. I just hope we can find our way back.

  • centerist cynic February 10, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Interesting that some of the projects noted were government projects. These harken back to a time when the government was not considered incapable of doing great things.

  • Teresa February 10, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    Cool story John! The creeping socialism certainly has dimmed the can-do spirit over the past 25 or so years. I think the American can-do spirit has been reignited and is starting to get brighter day-by-day though. Regulation is the killer of American exceptionalism. We must rollback all those nasty regulations.
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