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Bridge tumbles on Nitro side

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A handful of VIPs got a front-row view when the remainder of the Dick Henderson Bridge was demolished at 10 a.m. today.

These folks were in a reserved area on Center Street in Nitro between the stoplight and the railroad tracks, said Carrie Bly, spokesperson for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

That was where Jessica Taylor, a 10-year-old third-grader at Nitro Elementary, flipped the switch to set off the blast. She was selected for the honor from among 400 applicants at Nitro's elementary schools.

State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox was in the area along with Thomas "Frosty" Walls, a 92-year-old World War II veteran.

Nine additional elementary school children were selected by random drawing to be included in the VIP area to witness the historical event.

The honorees are Holden Barry and Elizabeth Rucker from Cross Lanes Elementary; Logan Withrow from Rock Branch Elementary; and Brianne Adkins, Jordan Murphy, Ava Gunter, Aden Cook, William Craft and Anna Taylor, who is Jessica's twin sister, all from Nitro Elementary.

Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt said the students filled out forms and the names were selected by random drawing at Tuesday's council meeting.

The mayor called the local VFW asking for a World War II veteran to be included in the ceremony, and Walls was recommended.

"We are bridging the gap between our greatest generation and our youngest," Casebolt said. "They need to understand the sacrifices those guys made. Freedom is not free."

The public was encouraged to gather at St. Albans Roadside Park for the best view of the demolition, Bly said.

"That is really the best place," she said. "We are concerned that on the Nitro side, people could wander into an area that is not safe."

St. Albans officials handled the ceremony when their side of the bridge was demolished over the Kanawha River.  

A large crowd gathered to see the St. Albans portion of the bridge brought down with explosives at 10 a.m. March 1.

For that event, St. Albans Mayor Dick Calloway selected three women to help him flip the detonator switch. They included Lorraine Henderson, wife of Dick Henderson, for whom the bridge was named; Margaret Bassett, who has written two history books about St. Albans; and Q.D. Woods, one of the area's "Rosies" who led the charge for a park honoring women who worked in factories during World War II. She is also believed to be one of the first women to walk across the bridge when it was completed 79 years ago.

The bridge is being removed to make way for a new and safer structure on the existing piers at an estimated cost of $23 million. Construction is targeted for completion by November.

Casebolt said residents are excited about the new bridge.

"It's actually a representation of Nitro and how we are moving forward along with the new bridge," he said.

A warning blast was sounded at 9:55 a.m. and again at 9:58 a.m. The detonation took place at 10 a.m.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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