CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When most people see the span, reaching out over the New River, they see a record-setting feat of engineering and an awe-inspiring view.
But when Larry Cottrell and Clarence “Spud” Chandler see the New River Gorge Bridge, they see the steel and bolts that created it and remember the men that labored next to them.
On Sunday evening, Cottrell and Chandler were two of the several dozen people who were on hand for one of the first showings of a new documentary, “Iron Men of the Gorge,” which captures the history of the laborers who built the New River Gorge Bridge, the iconic bridge in Fayette County that has become a West Virginia emblem.
The idea for the documentary began in 2011 when Greg Michael heard about a reunion that was held for the men who worked for American Bridge, the company that built the bridge. After a couple years of tracking down people and historic footage, he said the film came together.
“We did this documentary to honor these men,” said Michael, as several of the bridge builders, all of them members of the Iron Workers Union Local 301, and their families waited for the movie to begin.
Before the showing Sunday, Cottrell and the other laborers who built the bridge, completed in 1977, shared some of the photos they saved from that time.
With the crooked fingers and callused hands that can only come from a lifetime of difficult work, they passed around the grainy images, trying to identify some of the people who stood atop the steel beams or next to the bridge’s towers…