Remember that stuffed animal or favorite blanket you had as a kid? You would drag it around everywhere you went. And when you misplaced it, well, the world pretty much came to an end.
Over the years, the Comstock Covered Bridge has been my stuffed animal and my favorite blanket. Life getting you down? Head down to ye 'ol covered bridge and fish in her shadow. Or make a picnic and sit on the banks of the Salmon River or wade in the water and feel the river flow past relieving your stress and making you whole again.
So when crews dismantled the 220-year-old bridge a year ago, I had lost my sense of security. The gateway to my favorite river was gone. The quaint covered bridge beaten by the storms of New England was gone with only the rusted ugly steel beams that had supported it remaining. And it stayed that way for months.
I avoided the area. I would go 15 minutes out of my way, so I didn't have to see the empty foundations where the bridge – originally built in 1791 and replaced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 – once connected East Hampton and Colchester. The sense of place created by seeing the bridge crossing a rushing river surrounded by autumn's splendor or a fresh coat of snow was gone and replaced by safety netting and a series of trailers in the dusty dirt parking lot.
And then several weeks ago on a rainy summer afternoon, it all changed. This time when I passed by there was a shell of the restored covered bridge in the dirt parking lot. Crews were busy sawing, hammering, tightening screws and putting beams into place. My favorite stuffed animal was in my hand again. My blanket was around my shoulder. The world was right again and by November, the bridge will be back in place stronger than ever with the ugly steel girders put back in storage.
As a child, I enjoyed walking across the bridge and looking through the slits in the wooden floor and seeing the sunlight glinting off the Salmon River far below. There were three windows – one aiming downstream and two with views upstream – where my brother and sister and I would perch and look out at the wilderness. After crossing the bridge, we would skip rocks, wade or explore the trails snaking up river.
A decade ago, we lost some of that simple innocence when four planes crashed on that September morning. In another few months, my bridge will be back. A sense of security will be restored. And we will all wonder how we made it so long without it.