I’ve read that a fear of bridges like other phobias may, for some people, begin with a traumatic event. I can’t think of a specific event… being in a car accident on a bridge, dangling from the side, witnessing an event or even reading about one. I can only think of always having been afraid to cross bridges.
I should first mention that I grew up in an area of Massachusetts where the Connecticut River wove its way through the towns. There were about 10 bridges that I went over frequently and crossed at least one bridge most days.
My first memory of being afraid was when I was about 5 or 6 or 7. My brother and I were in the backseat and my mother was driving. We were crossing the 5th Street Bridge in the next town. The short pony truss bridge, just 136 feet long, was over the canal that brought water downstream to produce electricity. I had this overwhelming sense that being on this bridge was not safe. I felt it stuck in my gut and in the space behind my eyes and clogging my ears like something heavy and thick that wanted to get out.
The photo below is of bridge very similar to the 5th Street Bridge.
I didn’t like the approach to the bridge which was steeply downhill and curved. The bridge roadway seemed rough and the tires made noise and I could feel the vibration in my seat and the bridge seemed to shimmy slightly or was that the car jiggling and the water was very close to the bridge and I could see it flowing swiftly south.
The trip over was short but slow because you couldn’t go fast even though I recall telling my mother we should go faster. The bridge was narrow and I think today the traffic is controlled with lights and is stopped on one side of the bridge to allow traffic on the other side to proceed.
Sometimes we’d get stuck on the bridge waiting. Waiting because across the bridge was a narrow strip of land between the canal and the Connecticut River (which we had to also cross) and on this land was a string of paper mills. Sometimes we had to wait for a tractor trailer truck to maneuver in or out of the loading dock inside the mill which was a feat and often took the driver several twists and turns forward and back because of the narrow space. It seemed an eternity and I would kick my legs against the seat in front of me urging us to get moving again and off the bridge. Trapped. Stuck. And surely going into the canal.
I recall telling my mom when I was a bit older that these bridges were not safe. I had no reason to think this other than my own big ball of fear. I recall being scoffed at. But one day they did believe me.
In my early teens when the canal was drained, which was done periodically, bolts and pieces of the bridge were found on the canal bottom. Soon after the bridges underwent repair but even so once I got my license I never drove over that bridge.
Crossing the 5th Street Bridge I believe cemented my fear of bridges but it was not in itself traumatic. It was just traumatic for me.
I don’t know how it is for other gephyrophobiacs but I’d be curious how it all started for them.