Every columnist looks forward to the holidays as a chance to write a “perennial” – a column that takes the concerns of the present and mixes them up with more important and more spiritual themes. You know, like “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
So of course the natural thing to do is to put forth a series of New Year’s resolutions that are at once witty and reflective, insightful and charming. But I can’t do that, because I can’t stop thinking about those New Jersey cops.
For those of you who missed the story, it took place at a drawbridge between Jersey City and Kearney. The bridge goes over the Hackensack River, and the middle section gets raised every now and then to let boat traffic go through.
Normally, there are mechanical barriers that keep traffic from going when the bridge is open; a traffic accident took those out recently.
So the last few times they’ve had to open the bridge, the bridge operators have called Kearney cops, and they’ve set up flares and stopped traffic while the bridge was raised.
On Christmas Day, for some reason, the bridge operators called cops on the Jersey City side instead. Maybe it was their turn, I don’t know. So these two cops get in their car and drive over the bridge to the Kearney side, and deliver the flares that will serve as signals to tell traffic the bridge is open. It’s terrible weather apparently, fog and rain coming down in sheets.
And then the cops turn right back around and drive – over the non-existent bridge. These two good guys, with 22 years of service between them, plunged some 40 feet into icy water, to their deaths. On Christmas.
The tabloids had a hard time with this story, since you can have brave cops, corrupt cops, and even stupid cops, but you absolutely cannot have dead harebrained cops. Any cop who dies in the line of duty is by definition a hero, and you can’t snigger at them. After all, everyone’s turn will come, and who knows but that you, dear reader, might not choke to death on a ham sandwich or strangle yourself in the changing room at Bergdorf’s?
But I think this story is fascinating because it is both tragic and comic. I see as a parable about the path, really. Even when you are lighting the way for others, you have to pay attention to the road for yourself. You have to focus constantly not just on where you’re going, but how you’re going to get there.
And that’s a valuable thing to think about at New Year’s, when we each sit down and think about our roads (even if we only go as far as vowing to be 10 pounds lighter walking down them). I have a vision that the real estate industry can be less mystifying and bureaucratic than it currently is, and that some ramshackle city neighborhoods can be brought back with care, house by house, and that while I am changing my little corner of the world I can make enough money to have kids. That’s my path and I believe in it, strongly.
Oh Lord, let there be a bridge.
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