Fear of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge grips one couple
The $22 million dollar Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge officially opened to the public on September 28, 2008, and since then, thousands of people have walked on the 3,000-foot path that stretches over the Missouri river from downtown Omaha, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. But there are still two people who haven’t crossed the bridge and probably never will without the assistance of a hypnotherapist, prescription medication, and blindfolds.
Ever since the two cities celebrated the bridge’s opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and local music, my husband
and I have been trying to conquer his terror of heights and my fear of crossing bridges (either by car or on foot) so we too can experience the joy of walking on a stretch of concrete that precariously sways over a furious river 25-feet deep when the wind gusts up to three miles-per-hour.
“Oh, it’s just so fun!” a friend exclaimed to us after walking across the bridge. She continued excitedly, “And have you seen it at night? It’s just spectacular when the lights come on!”
Afraid of heights
My friend, whom I’d only known for a short time, had obviously never witnessed my husband’s reaction whenever he sees a sign lining a hiking trail in the mountains that reads Scenic Overlook Ahead. “Oh God,” he will mutter as the overlook looms in front of him. As we all reach the cliff without a guardrail that boasts a spectacular view of a valley that happens to be thousands of feet below, my husband breaks into a sweat, waves his arms in the air, and slowly backs away from the edge while screeching, “ANYONE WHO VALUES THEIR LIFE HAD BETTER GET AWAY FROM THE EDGE OF THAT CLIFF
!” For those of us brave enough to actually stay and enjoy the view, we all know where to find my husband when we’re done—lying in the fetal position
at the bottom of the trail with his thumb in his mouth.
And then there’s me. I hate bridges. I loath fat bridges, skinny bridges, the Bridges of Madison County (with or without Clint Eastwood), and bridges in my mouth. Whether I’m the driver or a passenger in a car that is maneuvering over a bridge, I’ll close my eyes, beg for mercy, and repeatedly chant positive affirmations until I reach the other side. It’s just that while I’m crossing the bridge, I can’t help but think, “Who built this contraption and did they check their screws twice to make sure they were tight enough before they punched the time clock for the day?” There are many ways I can imagine I don’t want to die, but I know for certain I don’t want to be flying in my car in mid-air—with a scream frozen on my face—while knowing there is no net, trampoline, or group of hunky firefighters to catch me before I land either on a river, gorge, or four-lane freeway.
Bob Kerrey Footbridge at Night
A few weeks ago, after we enjoyed a lovely dinner and local music on the riverfront
, my husband asked, “Soooo, do you want to take a walk on the wild side
and try that Pedestrian Bridge?” I gazed at the bridge, drank in its beauty for a few seconds, and then broke out into one of those all-over body sweats that causes complete strangers to stare. As my husband blotted my perspiration with the blindfold he brought along “just in case,” I shook my head. As the color returned to his face, he looked immensely relieved as he whispered, “Thank God.”
Anyone who knows me knows I like to think positive. As Madam Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” I’m coming to accept that my fear of crossing that bridge might just be completely irrational and without basis. So, as a result, I’ve made a promise to myself that the next time my husband asks if I want to cross that bridge, I’m going to close my eyes, take his hand, and then get the heck out of there. I’m not that optimistic.
Do you have an irrational fear?
A place in Omaha that just plain gives you the creeps?