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Here’s what readers remember from the day the Skyway bridge fell

Four decades after the tragedy, memories still linger.
The collapsed span of the Sunshine Skyway silhouetted against the morning sky.
The collapsed span of the Sunshine Skyway silhouetted against the morning sky. [ ERIC MENCHER | Times (1980) ]
Published May 8, 2020

Saturday marks the 40-year anniversary of the Sunshine Skyway bridge disaster. The foggy morning of May 9, 1980, left strong memories that have stayed with many readers.

The following memories have been edited for length and clarity.

• “I was a mile away working at McDonalds nearest the bridge. Shifts of men would come in to change out of their scuba gear and have breakfast. One man told me it looked like the horror was still on their faces when the people died. We drove on the span that was still standing a day or two later and you could look and see the wreckage below. Very sad day.” — Ann White Laferriere

• “On that day 40 years ago, I was getting ready to leave my house and drive to Bradenton for work. The trip over the Skyway always took my breath away, but was extremely scenic and exhilarating. Due to the fog that morning, I decided to take Highway 41 all the way to Bradenton. When I heard about the Skyway disaster on the radio that day, I pulled off the road and prayed for the people that lost their lives and thanked God for watching over me!” — Jim Wright

Related: 40 years after the Skyway bridge disaster, divers can’t forget what they saw underwater

• “I still remember feeling it was like a Godzilla movie. A monster reaching up and ripping away a section of the bridge and a Greyhound bus. ... Never have been able to shake that image in my mind.” — Kathy Mahar

• “I was teaching at USF then and dating a guy who was a cop reporter for the Tribune. He was assigned to go to the morgue in downtown Tampa as they brought the bodies in. He was there for about 30 hours, and at one point he called and asked me to bring him something to eat. I had to go to a back door to be let in, and the guy who opened it said, “Go down that hallway and turn left.” The hallway was lined with gurneys, all bearing body bags dripping sea water. There were so many bodies they had to wait in line.” — Colette Bancroft, Times books critic

• “I was a reporter for Channel 8 and then 13 and covered the Blackthorn sinking and then the Skyway story the next year. When the Blackthorn sank a government transportation manager told me on camera it was just a matter of time before a ship would bring down the bridge.” — Scott Sobel

Related: What happened to those who made headlines after the Skyway bridge accident?

• “I will never forget riding across the remaining span as a child, looking over at the bridge to nowhere and wondering about those who died that day. It made a huge impression on me.” — Jen Farrell

• “My family would move to St. Pete based on a visit just after this disaster. I was just 12, but I remember how sad people were and that the story was all over the news. It was so eerie to ride over the new bridge and see the old one just drop off in midair.” — Ginger Farrell

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