People in evacuation zone wake, eat and watch history

Friday, September 10, 2004

Ricky Mosley wouldn't be sleeping on the couch this time around.

Mosley, who lives at 137 S. Spanish St., was fast asleep on his couch when demolition crews brought down the old bridge span with military explosives the last time.

On Thursday, about 30 minutes before the blast, he was eating a free breakfast at Port Cape restaurant with several others.

The breakfast was free to those who were evacuated for safety.

"I think this right here is a good thing," said Mosley, referring to his plate of sausage, eggs and biscuits and gravy. Mosley said he was going to be awake anyway -- he didn't want to wake up to the violent sound of an exploding bridge again -- and the breakfast was a way of making the morning just a bit easier. After his before-dawn meal, he headed to the riverfront and was among hundreds who witnessed the span closest to the Missouri side fall -- and the unexpected tumbling of the two spans in the middle of the river.

Not everyone was as willing as Mosley to evacuate. The evacuation was voluntary, at least to a degree. People were allowed to stay in their homes, but police were adamant that no one be allowed outdoors within 1,500 feet of the explosion.

Police chief Steve Strong said everyone was cooperative with one exception.

The explosion was delayed by almost 30 minutes as police argued with Jack Rickard, who said he was within his rights to stand on his own property. Rickard owns a home closest to the bridge and a condominium a few properties south of that house. He was in the back yard of his condo when police came and asked him to go indoors. Eventually, Rickard went inside.

Rickard's condo neighbors, Marty and Tootie Hecht, went inside right away when asked.

Tootie Hecht put on some earmuffs. The Cape Girardeau couple watched the demolition through their kitchen window.

"I thought it was exciting," she said. Marty Hecht did too, but more from a historical context. He thought it was noteworthy that on back-to-back days he got to see the historic Marquette Hotel officially opened again and a 76-year-old bridge destroyed.

Several workers at a hospital laundry facility scurried to safety when an employee peeked out the door to see what was happening. She caught the eye of a police officer and the employees, even though there were no windows in the back of the building, were forced to wait across the street, which was outside the evacuation zone.

Two school bus stops were changed Thursday morning, said Jerry Wolsey, the safety coordinator of First Student transportation. He said everything went according to plan and the children boarded the buses safely. He said the explosion occurred before one of the buses made its stop, so it took its normal route.

It appears that all personal property was protected, too.

Rickard said he didn't see any damage to any of his property, and neighbors reported the same good news.

Peggy Butler of 215 Good Hope St. was originally worried that her antique collection might be put in danger by the blast. But officials assured her they would be OK.

She stayed in her garage and watched the bridge coverage on television.

"There's not much left of it now," she said.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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