The man at the window turned from his telescope, made some notations on a piece of paper, and handed it to his wife. She hurried out as he fell back against the pillows, racked with pain.
Beyond his open window rose the towers of the longest suspension bridge of his time—an iron, wood, and concrete link between New York City and Brooklyn. The man on the bed was Washington Augustus Roebling, son of the bridge’s deceased designer. After his father died, Roebling determined to finish the project. He had helped his dad create the blueprints and was the only one alive who understood the intricate strength hidden in the detailed drawings.
An accident at the foundation of one of the towers had left the thirty-six-year-old builder an invalid, unable to stand or speak more than a few words at a time. But Washington was a determined man, and nothing was going to stop the construction of the great Brooklyn Bridge.
Eleven years after his accident—in 1883—Washington saw the night sky light up with fireworks. He heard bands playing and politicians making speeches. Then a long line of men and women, horses and carts, began moving across the bridge. His bridge. He’d completed the job despite unrelenting pain.
After the accident he could’ve said, «My head hurts,» or «My stomach aches,» or «I just don’t feel like working today.» Instead, he rented a room where he could watch the construction, installed a telescope, and from his sickbed directed the project.
Whenever you don’t feel up to some important task, take a moment and imagine a man lying in a sickbed. Then check out a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge.