My mother in law has spent the vast majority of her life in Hinton, Ok. When she was a little girl her grandfather helped build a long, graceful bridge between Hinton and the nearby Geary, Ok. which is still heavily traveled today. Once the bridge was compete the workers invited their families and townspeople to a huge party on the bridge.
Even now,when driving across the bridge this vibrant 78 year old woman proudly points out, “One time I got to dance right there!” Through her memories I can imagine the party, the music, and the civic pride that created an excitement they could not contain….they just had to dance!
Over the last few years, as I watched the I-40 construction with fascination, I secretly hoped I would have an opportunity “to dance right there” before it was opened. Then it happened…I received the invitation from ODOT…”Neighborhood Alliance is invited to join us for the grand opening of the new I-40.” I could hardly read it because I was shaking with excitement!
Now you have to understand, this massive construction site has been a fascination of mine for years. I poured over the maps, tried in vain to figure out exactly where “my exit’ would be, drove friends and family over to watch the construction, felt enormous pride when I saw the decorative bridge at Pennsylvania Avenue open up, and often felt like an I-40 stalker because I was so fascinated with the process.
To get the invitation was like being asked to be “milk monitor” in 3rd grade…it was special and only a few got the privilege! I would be surrounded by I-40aphiles just like me! These people would understand when I talked in awe of the huge concrete art tiles, the mounds of dirt that were excavated , and the highly anticipated scissor tail fly catcher sculpture that sits atop the roadway. I would be among my people!
I invited my co-worker Jennifer to go with me on the much anticipated day. We drove to the site and were immediately asked if we were there for the convoy (the first 100 cars on the roadway) or if we were dignitaries. We looked at each other and then responded with confidence, “convoy!” The flag-man then waved us to the west, stating, “you will have to park down there after that last tractor trailer” which was about 1.2 miles down the road!!! Quite a walk back to the ceremony site in our cute dress clothes we wore for the special occasion! So we re-thought our status, and told him we must have been mistaken, we were really dignitaries. He looked a bit puzzled but politely told us to park up closer to the staging area.
It was a party atmosphere… a loud speaker boomed fun music, free cupcakes and coffee were being passed out, there were commemarative post card books depicting the history of the project, national and local officials were abundant, people were laughing and carrying on with palpable giddiness.
We were all carried away by the significance of this day! I-40 was re-opening and in some small way it was as if each one of us took some ownership in this. Not that it was really warranted…demanding that unwilling family and friends look on in awe with you at construction sites is not really participating in the overall project! But none the less, ODOT and the other hosts helped make me feel as though it was all because of me that they were able to get his massive project to this point!
While waiting for the real dignitaries to make their official speeches, standing under the Western Avenue bridge on the brand new, not-yet-driven cement of I-40, with all the drunken abandon of free cupcakes and beautiful Oklahoma weather, I looked at Jennifer and said, “I have to dance!”
And dance I did! Just a little jig…but it was a fearless, full of pride kind of dance! And believe me, if you are ever in the car with me while we drive I-40, and even when I am 78, I will proudly say as we pass the Western Ave. bridge, “One day I danced right there, cupcake in hand, civic pride took over and I had to dance!”
I love the feeling we get when as a whole we accomplish something that none of us could do alone. I didn’t turn one shovel of dirt that it took to build I-40 yet I feel like it is as much my project as it is ODOT’s, the City of OKC, the engineers, or the multitudes of workers who really built it. I am their biggest fan…but I am also their silent partner. Just back here dancing on one of the grandest pieces of construction ever built in our state! Congrats to all of us!