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Demolition to bridge the generation gap

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nitro officials expect a big crowd Friday, when the Dick Henderson Bridge is demolished - but no one will be closer to the action than Jessica Taylor.

That's because Jessica, a 10-year-old third-grader at Nitro Elementary School, gets to push the button that will make the bridge come down.

Actually, it might be a switch that she gets to pull - city officials aren't sure of the details of the controlled blast that will take down the remainder of the old bridge. But what matters more, said Jennifer Taylor, Jessica's mother, is the explosion.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said.

"It's not like these sort of things happen all the time. I'm sure it will be something that she'll remember forever."

Jessica was selected at random from more than 400 applicants among Nitro's elementary schools.

She'll be joined by 92-year-old Thomas "Frosty" Walls, a World War II veteran.

Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt devised the plan.

"We are using the blowing up of the bridge to bridge the gap between what people would call our greatest generation with what is our youngest generation," Casebolt said. "The young generation needs to understand the sacrifices of this older generation."

Jessica's family first heard she had won the drawing on the evening news.

"I looked at my husband and said, 'Did they just say Jessica's name? Is there another Jessica Taylor in her school?' " her mother said. "So we were all very shocked."

Nine other students were chosen to stand in the front row to see the explosion - among them, Jessica's twin sister, Anna.

"That was just the luckiest thing," Casebolt said. "They came from different classes in the school and their forms came in on different days and everything."

The girls' older brother, a fifth-grader at the school, wasn't chosen, but their mom said he's been good-natured about the whole thing.

"He actually wanted it to be them," she said. "He said he wanted them to get to do it."

A portion of the bridge - the half on the St. Albans side of the Kanawha River - was blasted last week. Crews will finish the job on the Nitro side at 10 a.m. Friday.

It's being cleared to make way for a newer, safer bridge at a cost of about $23 million. That bridge is expected to be completed in November.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.



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