From the upper floor of my house you can see the wonders of the Runcorn-Widnes (or, if you live in Widnes, the Widnes-Runcorn) bridge which spans both the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. Named The Silver Jubilee Bridge, it is a wonderful feat of engineering. It was officially opened on 21st July1961 and widened between 1975 and 1977, and, for the technically minded amongst you, it is a compression arch suspended-deck bridge. A Grade II listed building, the vital statistics of the bridge are 482 metres long, 16 metres wide, and 87 metres high. A single span bridge, it has a 24 metre clearance over the Manchester Ship Canal. Construction on the bridge was started in April 1956 and took five years to complete. During the construction 720,000 rivets were used, and the carriageway is suspended from the main arch by means of 48 lock-coil wire ropes.
There are frequent accidents on this heavily congested bridge, and also occasional suicides by people climbing to the top of the main arch and jumping into the river below. About eighteen months ago we were involved in an accident when the driver of a large white van tried to run us off the road because we were in his way. If you are a regular reader of this Blog you may recall that my car was torched outside my house later on the same evening by the van driver who objected to my insisting that the matter of the damage be dealt with through the proper channels. (See my Blog Post of Monday May 19th, 2008, headed Things really warmed up . . .)
I remember relating the following story to the Sunday School one day:
There was once a young guy who was attacked and robbed whilst walking across the Runcorn Bridge, and he was even stripped of the designer-label clothing which he wore, leaving him almost naked and half-beaten to death at the side of the carriageway. Cars speeding past just ignored him, not wanting to get involved in case they somehow became victims as well. A priest, hurrying from Runcorn to Widnes to a church service, saw the man but decided that he couldn't stop because he would otherwise be late for his service. Finally a burly Hell's Angel drove up on a motorbike, and seeing the man by the side of the carriageway, he stopped and dismounted. With his emblazoned leather jacket, long hair streaming from under his helmet, and wild looking beard, he was enough to put fear into many people.
The Biker knelt by the side of the man and then took off his leather jacket to cover his nakedness. He lifted him to his feet and then flagged down a car. Together they went to a nearby pub where the Biker asked the publican to look after the man, feeding him and getting him somewhere to sleep. He left enough money for all that was needed, but told the landlord that he would look in the next day in case he needed more.
Who did the best for this man? Certainly not the motorists who just drove past, looking the other way. Certainly not the priest hurrying on so that he wouldn't miss his service. Yet the Biker, someone whom many in Society would look down on or drive around rather than near, never gave it a second thought. He simply responded to someone in need of assistance.
There's a lesson for all of us in that.