Me, anchoring the evening news, Tampa, circa 1985
During my 20-year career in broadcasting I lived in many cities. From small market to large, I worked my way up the proverbial ladder, never having the time or inclination to go back to where I began. But when, during my recent road trip, Mr. Right suggested we take a detour so I could journey back down memory lane to one of those places I once lived and worked, I thought, “Why not?” All I had to do to enjoy a little time traveling was cross Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge.It is a formidable bridge—all steel and cable and concrete, stretching out over Tampa Bay almost four miles. As it came into view, my heart starting racing, and not just because of its tragic history. Long before I had arrived in the area, the bridge was at the center of two devastating catastrophes—in January of 1980, less than a mile from the bridge, two ships collided, killing 23-people. Then, less than four months later, a freighter struck the bridge, causing a portion of it to collapse into Tampa Bay, taking with it ten cars and a Greyhound bus, and killing 35 people. Those events would be enough to make anyone think twice about crossing the bridge, but for me, it had more to do with what was waiting on the other side. Memories of my arrival in the Tampa area as a young, naïve, 20-something reporter washed over me like the waters in the Bay that were lapping up against the bridge’s concrete pylons. It was a time marked by the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, my coming of age, punctuated by perpetual drama. Bad bosses, the unraveling of a significant relationship, and the death of my beloved father, turned my time in the Sunshine State into an emotional roller coaster. Crossing the Skyway meant reconnecting with parts of my past I wasn’t sure I wanted to revisit. But it was too late. While I was deep in nervous and uncomfortable thought, Mr. Right kept on driving and we were already on the bridge. ”No turning back now,” I thought. ”Just look at it like another adventure.” And so it would be. We kept on driving forward— heading right into my past.
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