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The spirit that built skyscrapers will rebuild bridges
Getty Images/The Washington Post/Contributor

The spirit that built skyscrapers will rebuild bridges

We don’t wait for history to chart our course. We write it with the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs. That’s who we are. Have we forgotten that?

I am sick and tired of hearing about our limitations. The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge this week is an amazing hero story of the cops and first responders who saved an untold number of lives by doing exactly the right thing quickly. But I’m really tired of hearing about how long it’s going to take us to recover from this catastrophe and how bad it’s going to be.

The immediate impact for Americans regarding this bridge collapse seems dire. If you're waiting for a new car to come in from overseas, prepare to wait longer. The Port of Baltimore stands as the nation’s leading import-export site for cars and trucks. It’s also the leading nexus for sugar and gypsum, which is used in fertilizer, drywall, and plaster. A record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo was transported through Baltimore just last year.

To expect more from our leaders is rational. But to expect the most from ourselves is essential.

The bustling port is now cut off after the 1.6-mile-long bridge crumbled and fell into the river early Tuesday, blocking the only shipping lane into the port.

The officials have said the timeline for rebuilding the bridge will be years. The Port of Baltimore creates more than 15,300 jobs, with another 140,000 jobs linked to the activity at the port. This is a major disaster and will continue to cause significant problems on the East Coast for U.S. importers and exporters.

The bridge collapse means it will not be possible to get to the container terminals or a range of the other port terminals in Baltimore. Maryland Secretary of Transportation Paul J. Wiedefeld told reporters on Tuesday that vessel traffic in the port would be suspended until further notice but noted the port is still open to trucks.

Michael Mezzacappa, an attorney and expert on property damage cases in the shipping industry, told the New York Post that the collapse will have a major impact on shipping and traffic routes in the East Coast for the foreseeable future. “It’s not going to get fixed any time soon,” Mezzacappa said. “It’s going to take a lot longer than anyone expects. This is going to be a major problem for the Northeast.”

Remember the American spirit

I am absolutely sick to death of all of these stories that say things like that. Have we forgotten who we are? Have we forgotten what we’ve done?

Let me remind you of the American spirit, a spirit so potent and so vibrant that it has scaled towering mountains, mountains nobody thought they could cross.

It’s the spirit that constructed marvels of engineering. Have you ever been to the Hoover Dam? Have you seen the New York City skyline? The skyscraper was invented here for a reason. Here we are on the threshold of tomorrow, and none of us knows what is going to happen. But I'm getting the impression that we’ve been so beaten down that we believe we’re not going to make it tomorrow.

Have we forgotten who our ancestors are and what they did? If you look through our history even briefly, you will see a group of people who never take no for an answer. You will see a people who can do anything.


I want to stop just briefly in 1930. The Great Depression had its icy grip on us. It was a time that felt like a flickering candle in the vast darkness just barely holding on. Yet, it was in this crucible of adversity that Americans did great things.

Getty Images/Nextrecord Archives

The Empire State Building rose. It wasn’t just a structure of steel and stone. It was a beacon, a beacon of hope and American resilience and ingenuity. The way that thing was built — no one has ever seen anything like it before and since. In a record-shattering one year and 45 days, an army of workers, as many as 3,400 men on certain days, transformed this audacious vision into a cowering reality.

The Empire State Building wasn’t constructed. It was conjured into existence with a symphony of clanging metal and roaring machines and the inexhaustible spirit of its builders. The men perched on steel girders that were being flown in by giant cranes whispered tales about how they could still feel the warmth of the freshly poured metal beneath them. That beam was still warm, even though it was poured in Pittsburgh, put on a train, then put on a boat, then on a truck, then hauled up into the air.

They could fill the warmth because we moved that fast. It was a feverish pace of construction. It seemed to defy the laws of time and physics.

For a long time, it was the tallest building in the world — an architectural achievement. It was also a declaration to the world that America was a land where the impossible became possible, that we are a people of determination, innovation, with a relentless will to succeed.

These aren't merely historical footnotes. They are blazing torches illuminating our path forward. They remind us that when we're faced with adversity, we don't just endure it. We overcome it. We don’t wait for history to chart our course. We write it with the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs. That’s who we are. Have we forgotten that?

What are we waiting for?

We find ourselves at another crossroads faced with the challenges that threaten to dim the bright future that we all dream for our nation, for our children. The spirit that built the Empire State Building, laid down miles of railroads, cut through the Rocky Mountains, and sent astronauts to the moon is still inside of every heart of every American, somewhere.

Awaken that spirit. Scale new mountains. It's not just rock and earth. Scale the mountains of innovation. Build. Not just physical structures but a future that upholds the spirit of adventure, hard work, and ingenuity. Stop tearing everything down. Let's start building.

Why are we waiting? If this isn't a national emergency, I don't know what it is.

And I don't just mean the bridge. I mean all of it. You might say, “Well, our government has to lead.” Really? Does it? Maybe that’s our problem. America is led by its values and principles that are found in the souls of those who still remember who we are and who we serve. Americans lead the way. The government always follows.

You might say again, "Well, we can’t act without the government." Nonsense! Where are the bridge builders who will stand up today and say, “I'll get it done!” As soon as that happens, you’ll see who is leading and who is stalling. The government is the one that stalls the engine out. To expect more from our leaders is rational. But to expect the most from ourselves is essential.

There is nothing we can't achieve when we all stand together, united by our dreams, and driven by the will to see them fulfilled. Don't listen to anybody else who tells you differently.

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