The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 30th, 2012

time worn

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hundred and twenty nine years ago- on May 30, 1883- 12 people were killed and 35 wounded upon the Brooklyn Bridge in what would best be described as constituting a personal nightmare scenario to your humble narrator. I’ve never liked crowds, and shy away from congested areas where a sudden panic might carry me toward apotheosis randomly. Surely this is born of an experience in racially polarized South Brooklyn back in the early 1980’s when I found myself swept in the surge of a small race riot while onboard a bus.


A woman fell down the wooden steps at the end of the New-York approach to the Brooklyn bridge yesterday afternoon while the pathway was crowded with thousands of men, women, and children walking and passing one another. As she lost her footing another woman screamed, and the throng behind crowded forward so rapidly that those at the top of the steps were pushed over and fell in a heap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Weak, poorly developed physically, and given to panic- a young narrator watched with growing horror as a group of “Cugenes” (slang for Italian kids in my old hood) approached the Bushwick bound B78 bus intent on ferreting out a certain African American youth with whom they had a conflict. The Cugenes come onto the bus swinging, and as tribal affiliations ruled the day- the pushing started. I found myself a helpless and unwilling cork bobbing on a sea of witless hatred, an experience which has stayed with me to this day.

from wikipedia

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m), it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, it was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge, a name from an earlier January 25, 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become an icon of New York City, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unending nightmares of such situations guide me to this day, and one is quite phobic about being trapped within a crowd without egress or a clear pathway of escape. I think it’s part of the reason that places like Times Square fill me with nameless dread, and I prefer the concrete desolations of the sparsely populated Newtown Creek.

I’m all ‘effed up.


A terrible disaster occurred yesterday afternoon on tho East River Bridge, by which twelve persons lost their lives and a great many others were injured more or less seriously. While there were no less than 15,000 persons on the Bridge, a blockade was formed on the footpath at the head of a flight of steps nine feet high extending from the masonry above the anchorage to the first iron truss, the same place at which blockades of people have occurred heretofore. A panic followed the pushing and struggling in which men and women tried to free themselves from the crowd. In the midst of this rush, started, it is thought by a gang of roughs, either thoughtlessly or with mischievous intent, several persons were carried over the edge of the steps. They fell on the landing and at the foot of the stairs, ethers stumbled on them, and more than forty persons were trampled underfoot by the panic-stricken multitude.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 30, 2012 at 12:15 am

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