Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Highway on the edge

I-95 in Philadelphia, 7 am Tuesday (AP photo)

A number of years ago I was called for jury duty at the Federal courthouse on Market Street in Philadelphia. After an entire morning of sitting in not-so-comfortable waiting room chairs, myself and a group of my fellow American citizens were called into a courtroom to see if we were fit for a real case.
We were told to say nothing, just sit while attorneys, prosecutors and defendants were brought into the stately oak-clad courtroom to prepare for a trial. The defendants, middle-aged businessmen, looked us over, and spent a good amount of time whispering to each other and their advocates.
They then left the courtroom, and not long after a judge entered the room and thanked us for our service, then added that the defendants had decided to settle their case out-of-court. The judge told us not to feel like we had wasted our time that day, but that our presence (and probably the fear in our eyes that we would be sitting on a jury for weeks or months) had contributed to the settlement.
I did not find out until later that the case was related to the infamous tire fire under I-95 several years ago, a catostrphe which occurred very near the same spot of the cracked pillars that caused a shutdown of that major artery this morning.
I was amazed then, and continue to be amazed, that more attention is not paid to these structures that we depend on for our very lives (when we're using them, at least). Inspecting them every six months, or every year is just not enough.


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