VIDEO: Galloping Gertie’s collapse is an enduring Tacoma narrative
UPDATE: The debut of the film, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed to Feb. 26.
On Nov. 7, 1940, Galloping Gertie collapsed into the Tacoma Narrows.
Video taken that day shows the suspension bridge that connected Gig Harbor to Tacoma whipping in the wind before finally coming apart and falling into the water below.
“They knew for a few hours that the wind was really whipping and the bridge was going to come down,” said Zachary Sokolik, marketing and development director of Harbor History Museum. “That’s why there is so much footage. They knew it was compromised. At around 11 a.m., it came down.”
Most of that footage was shot from the Tacoma side.
At 6 p.m. Feb. 26, the museum is scheduled to debut newly discovered footage recorded from the Gig Harbor side by a toll booth operator named Arthur Leach. Admission is $5.
“As a historian, I am naturally skeptical until I am able to confirm details. I am excited to say that I have been able to verify that Mr. Leach was noted as a toll boboth operator at the time and that this footage is a rare find,” Harbor History Museum director Stephanie Lile said on the museum’s website. “One of the things that makes this footage so special is that this was the personal view of somebody who actually worked on the bridge. The clip we always see is shot from the Tacoma side, so this is a whole different view.”
The video was given to the museum by a woman who is choosing to be anonymous until its release. Sokolik said the woman’s mother gave it to her.
The video runs about 7-1/2 minutes and shows the bridge’s collapse and views after it fell.
On the day of the collapse, traffic was stopped at the Tacoma side, resulting in a huge gathering of people on that side of the bridge, Lile said.
“They stopped the traffic, so a lot of people gathered to watch because it was a big deal,” Lile said. “A professor didn’t think it was going to fall and was one of the last people off the bridge, but in the end it fell.”
Sokolik said the although there were people on Gig Harbor’s side as well, almost all footage was shot from Tacoma’s side.
“It was 1940, so everyone didn’t have an iPhone to pull out and start recording it,” Sokolik said.
In addition to showing the video, experts will be on hand to discuss Leach, the research used to verify the footage and more of what happened on Nov. 7, 1940 .
Tickets may be purchased online at http://harborhistorymuseum.org/buy-tickets. Admission is free to Harbor History Museum members.
Sokolik said the museum’s long-term goal is to put the lost footage on a video monitor in the Narrows Bridge display. The gallery contains some of the wreckage from the bridge collapse.