AN INVITING ICON

Fireworks explode during the Ravenel Bridge opening celebration on July 14, 2005.

It's just a bridge, right? Not if you live in the Lowcountry.

A lot of news happens under the diamond-shaped towers of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. And it's clear the span has become much more than an iconic part of the Holy City skyline in its 10-year history.

Outside the usual Bridge Runs and C-17 flyovers, some incidents have become notorious for their gridlock-causing angst.

Others brought the community heartbreak, but some brought joy.

The first decade of Charleston being home to one of the world's largest cable-stayed bridges has had many attention-getting moments:

July 9-15, 2005: The first week of the new span starts with a big bang. Zambelli Fireworks Internationale fills 20,000 pounds of explosives with 60,000 fireworks for a $250,000 show to celebrate the new bridge. The fireworks are launched from four barges in the Charleston Harbor and at points along a 3,000-foot stretch of roadway on the bridge. An exclusive party gathers 950 ticket-holders for an on-bridge fundraiser. Joggers and walkers make their first of many treks across the span as nearly 150,000 people show up for pedestrians-only events.

July 16, 2005: The new span across the Cooper River opens. The eight lanes will dramatically improve commuting, but residents soon will learn that traffic on this integral part of U.S. Highway 17 can come to a screeching halt — sometimes for hours.

Sept. 20, 2005: A Mount Pleasant police officer responding to a vehicle crash on the bridge is injured when an SUV rear-ends his cruiser. The lawman was driving south when he slowed for a two-vehicle crash. The SUV struck the squad car, pushing it into a retaining wall. The SUV driver was charged with driving too fast for conditions. Two of the southbound lanes were closed for at least an hour.

Dec. 20, 2005: Authorities search 10 hours for an armed suspect before catching him walking the pedestrian path on the bridge. Police said the man broke into a cottage behind a Mount Pleasant home and settled in with a beer and a remote control before the gun-toting resident surprised him. The man is arrested but later escapes from an officer. Police said the same man broke into another home four hours later and startled a sleeping resident after stealing a handgun and jacket.

Jan. 30, 2006: A man arrested during a traffic stop escapes from a patrol car and runs loose for two hours. A Mount Pleasant police officer had noticed the driver stray from his lane, then discovered his license was suspended. The man slipped the handcuffs in front of him while inside the police cruiser. He pushed a window off its track and escaped while the officer was taking an inventory of his car. The suspect is rearrested on the bridge.

April 1, 2006: The first Cooper River Bridge Run over the new span attracts 45,497 entrants, including runners and walkers, and 33,742 of them cross the finish line. The steep uphill climb quickly separates the elite runners from the herd.

April 9, 2006: The RiverDogs give the first 1,000 fans through the gates at Riley Park a “bobble bridge” replica.

June 5, 2006: A two-week crime spree associated with the span begins. In a little more than 14 days, 10 vehicles are broken into while the owners, a mix of locals and tourists, walk or run the bridge. While a city official maintains the lot is safe, Charleston police increase their presence by assigning off-duty officers to monitor the lot.

Aug. 25, 2006: The state Department of Transportation removes wind-battered signs — two speed limit markers and a town limit designator — to replace them with stronger ones.

Sept. 6, 2006: A Tacoma, Wash., couple rides their bicycle built for two into the Lowcountry, pedaling across the span. The couple continues on to Atlanta to complete the 5,600-mile, 20-state odyssey.

Oct. 15, 2006: A 21-year-old Andrews man survives what authorities say is the first fall from the bridge. Rescue workers grab the dangling man who for hours had threatened to jump but could not prevent him from falling 200 feet into the Cooper River. He is conscious when taken to Medical University Hospital after the fall from the highest point of the span. The four-hour incident that ended at 6 p.m. causes a massive traffic jam as all northbound lanes of U.S. 17 are eventually closed. He is one of four people who survive jumping from the span.

Nov. 11, 2006: The body of a missing 21-year-old Ladson man is found floating near Charleston Harbor a week after he parked his vehicle near the foot of the bridge and left a note threatening to jump. Some 20 more people will die from jumping from the span.

Dec. 25, 2006: A 1-year-old child suffers a febrile seizure as her family crosses back into Mount Pleasant after Christmas dinner downtown. At the foot of the span, the child is saved through CPR and resuscitation by the father, a passerby and a town crew of firefighters.

March 16, 2007: Speeding enforcement on the new span is stepped up. A driver is stopped going 112 mph, the fastest clocked in bridge history. The speed limit is 55 mph.

March 19, 2007: The Zhen Hua 19 squeezes her payload of four mammoth cranes destined for the Port of Charleston under the bridge, the final leg of a voyage that started 15,000 miles away in China. Each of the new cranes can reach across 22 cargo containers, 196 feet, and can accommodate the world's largest containerships, which now have more elbow room because of the new span.

June 22, 2007: The Big Green Bus barrels across the bridge, fueled by discarded vegetable oil. Charleston is the seventh stop on a 45-city tour to promote awareness about alternative energy. The bus can carry 220 gallons of oil, which is run through two filters before it is pumped to the engine. The bus gets about 9 miles to the gallon.

Nov. 30, 2007: Lights that illuminate the tower closest to Mount Pleasant go out because of a faulty relay switch. The switch turns on the decorative lights. Navigation lights aren't affected.

Dec. 28, 2007: An 18-wheeler leaving the bridge smashes into seven cars on the Morrison Drive off-ramp. Though the truck flattened the back end of a Honda Civic and crumpled other cars, all the drivers manage to walk away.

Jan. 16, 2008: The French company that installed the bridge's 128 cables finds defective “shock absorbers” during an in-depth inspection, the state reports. The problems are minor, and overall the cables are said to be holding up well.

Jan. 27, 2008: Bridge traffic is slowed or stalled for repeated five-minute intervals during the filming of a national TV commercial for General Motors. Mount Pleasant police cruisers escort new 2008 GM vehicles over the large span several times while cameras in a helicopter and on-car mounts record footage for a TV ad.

Feb. 15, 2008: A rookie solicitor is accused of pointing a gun during a road rage incident on the bridge. Officers arrest him and find a loaded .40-caliber pistol in his SUV. The 29-year-old is fired from his 9th Circuit job and his law license later suspended.

June 5, 2008: An extension of the bike and pedestrian pathway from the bridge to Chapel Street officially opens. The new concrete lane is 12 feet wide and half a mile long. More than 2,000 feet of new granite curbing was installed, along with additional street lighting.

Nov. 11, 2008: Four women riding across the Ravenel Bridge tell police their vehicle was shot at after a night of bowling. They were heading onto the Charleston side of the Ravenel Bridge when a vehicle pulled up next to them, a hand reached out the window and they heard a pop. They pulled over at a restaurant on the Mount Pleasant side of the bridge and saw a bullet hole on the left side of the vehicle near the gas tank. The bullet had gone through the vehicle and into the wheel well but didn't enter the passenger compartment.

Jan. 31, 2009: A driver manages to make it from downtown onto the bridge with a boot on the left front tire of an SUV. An officer followed the trail of damage left by the boot from a parking lot to the top of the bridge, where the boot fell off. The mangled boot, worth $100, was retrieved. No arrest was made.

April 11, 2009: Walking in a bridge traffic lane while apparently drunk lands a man in jail. The man told Charleston police who picked him up about 2 a.m. that he'd been drinking downtown and wanted to walk to his Mount Pleasant hotel. The bridge has a pedestrian walkway, but he was in a traffic lane. He is charged with causing a public disturbance on a highway and disorderly conduct.

April, 28, 2009: Hairline cracks, on the concrete caps and on the bike lane surface, are repaired. The fresh epoxy will prevent water from entering these cracks, which could rust the steel reenforcement bars, causing them to expand and weaken the bridge.

June 6, 2009: A powerful waterspout forms near the bridge, prompting witnesses to grab cellphones and digital cameras to capture the vortex. The waterspout, essentially a tornado over water, took shape around 1:40 p.m. on the Cooper River north of the bridge. Meteorologists estimated that its winds blew between 50 and 70 mph. Witnesses said the spout moved for 10 to 15 minutes before it dissipated. It never touched land, and no injuries were reported.

March 23, 2010: State transportation officials report that the elevators inside the two towers of the bridge don't always work. A state lawmaker had recently gotten stranded at the top for nearly four hours.

April 18, 2010: The Blue Angels are in town for the air shows, and people are talking about whether one of the F/A-18s flew beneath the bridge. Multiple videos of a jet supposedly flying under the bridge surface online, and some people say they saw it happen. The Navy said the jet actually banked hard to the left, about a half-mile before it ever got to the bridge.

May 26, 2010: Mount Pleasant police ask for help from anybody who may have seen someone toss a kitten from the bridge. The kitten died shortly after a visitor found it on Waterfront Park about 8:30 a.m. The woman told police she heard what sounded like a car horn on the bridge , followed by a thump by the picnic tables. The woman took the kitten to a local veterinarian's office, where it later died.

June 2, 2010: A 30-year-old Hanahan woman found herself giving birth to her fourth child in the back seat of a minivan on the bridge. Attempting to get to Medical University Hospital, the father mistakenly took the wrong exit off the interstate and raced up the ramp to the bridge. As the van moved along, the baby girl arrived into the arms of the mother's friend, who had never delivered a baby before. Hours later at the hospital, the infant was dozing comfortably, weighing in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

Nov. 1, 2010: Charleston police call in the Joint Terrorism Task Force after someone reported seeing the word “boom” painted in graffiti on the bridge. A state Department of Transportation employee said she was running on the walkway when she saw graffiti painted on the sidewalk that had the word “boom” and an arrow pointing to a drawing of the bridge's familiar diamond shape. According to the police report, investigators concluded there was no indication to believe the graffiti was anything more than an act of vandalism.

Nov. 18, 2010: Command of an Army National Guard unit housed at the Mount Pleasant Armory was passed from one officer to another in a ceremony atop the bridge. The C Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment held the “passing of the colors” ceremony on the pedestrian walkway at the city line between Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

May 20, 2011: The driver of a moped is struck on the bridge at about 10 p.m. and later dies at Medical University Hospital. The 32-year-old Johns Island woman was merging onto the bridge from Coleman Boulevard, traveling toward Charleston, when a vehicle struck the moped from the rear. A Ridgeville man was charged with felony DUI.

Jan. 10, 2011: The coastal areas near Charleston get about half an inch of frozen rain from a winter storm. Bridges in the Lowcountry were empty after police began shutting them down because of icy conditions. For several hours, residents east of the Cooper River are unable to get to Charleston without driving through Moncks Corner because the bridges were closed.

Dec. 17, 2011: A fiery wreck on the bridge claims a 32-year-old Mount Pleasant man's life, lands a restaurant assistant manager in jail on a felony DUI charge, and shuts down the bridge for hours as authorities clear debris and collect evidence. A car was rear-ended and spun until it slammed into the concrete barrier guarding the pedestrian path and burst into flames.

Jan. 24, 2012: The bridge is finally represented on Google Maps after a Charleston man alerted the Internet giant that the span was missing because of a misnomer. Google Maps mistakenly labeled it the Septima Clark Bridge. The Septima P. Clark Parkway honors the late Charleston native and civil rights activist. It leads to the bridge. The Ravenel Bridge is named for the former congressman, school board member and state legislator. Google Maps corrected the mistake after the query.

Feb. 2, 2012: A 38-year-old Mount Pleasant man is arrested after parking his SUV sideways on the bridge and blocking traffic for hours. On the Lexus' windows, he painted the words “Stay Away,” “Back Off” and “Game Over.” Inside the car, he had a smoke grenade and two cans of pepper spray, police said. Police closed the bridge and eventually talked him into surrendering. He is taken to a psychiatric facility for observation. It won't be the last we hear of him.

March 31, 2012: The 35th annual Bridge Run doesn't start until nearly 9 a.m., delayed by nearly an hour as thousands of people try to get to Mount Pleasant from downtown Charleston by bus. It was not over until almost four hours later, when a 90-year-old walker crossed the finish line.

April 30, 2012: A runaway 18-wheeler on the long, tall ramp connecting Interstate 26 eastbound and the bridge sideswipes a car, rear-ends a state truck and crashes into a police cruiser before coming to a stop. The wreck left an ugly scene of twisted metal and clogged traffic, but no one was seriously injured.

May 21, 2012: A woman calls police to report two men walking up the bridge from the Charleston side, carrying backpacks and acting suspiciously. When police arrive, they find one of the men had climbed over the side and was under the bridge. Firefighters from Mount Pleasant and Charleston responded, and a ladder truck was extended and used to lower a firefighter down, with a harness, into the structure under the bridge so he could retrieve the man. The two told police their jaunts beyond the railings of the bridge were part of a thrill-seeking fad called parkour. Both men were to be charged with disorderly conduct.

June 24, 2012: Mount Pleasant police pull over a truck going 96 mph on the bridge. An officer spotted the grey truck speeding south on the bridge shortly after 2 a.m. The truck was weaving in and out of traffic. The truck's driver told police he was headed to the hospital because his passenger had been shot. An officer followed them to Roper Hospital after the victim refused to ride in an ambulance. He told police he didn't want to pay for the ride.

Jan. 10, 2013: A group of Latino activists walk together across the bridge from Mount Pleasant to Charleston to demonstrate their concerns about the nation's immigration laws. Carrying U.S. flags and hand-made signs calling for fair immigration reform, the group of about 14 people advocated for regulations that keep families together.

March 14, 2013: A group of about 30 Wounded Warriors, all veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, cross the bridge on a bicycle tour around Charleston to raise community support and awareness of the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.

April 18, 2013: A woman calls 911 when a small plane swoops over her while she is driving on the bridge. The Federal Aviation Administration looked into the Charleston County contractor conducting aerial spraying for mosquitoes on both sides of the bridge. As a result of its inquiry, the FAA said changes were made to the flight route to help alleviate public concerns.

May 15, 2013: Two electricity company workers are hurt when their truck tumbles nearly four stories off the bridge ramp and crashed onto the grass below. The Sumter Utilities truck was leaving the bridge on southbound U.S. 17 when its boom snagged a sign marking the Meeting Street exit and pulled the rig over a wall. With the truck on its side 36 feet below the bridge, rescuers cut the two men from the cab. Their injuries were serious but not life-threatening. The driver was ticketed for driving an unsafe vehicle.

June 24, 2013: A man threatening to jump from the bridge had grown hungry and thirsty during his hours atop the bridge. Police brought him a pepperoni pizza from Andolini's and some water. He was taken into custody shortly after the delivery. Traffic backed up for more than a mile as crews shut down the two right southbound lanes. He is one of five people who were saved from jumping from the span.

July 30, 2013: A Charleston woman who police said had too much to drink hits a wall of the bridge and knocked two light poles over the edge. The 41-year-old woman was charged with driving under the influence and driving too fast for conditions.

Oct. 3, 2013: A 25-year-old Charleston man is shot to death as he rides over the bridge after meeting potential buyers for a truck he advertised on Craigslist. The man accused of killing him drove to Beaufort in the stolen truck to party with friends after dumping the body, using the victim's debit card to finance his road trip, authorities said.

Oct. 7, 2013: A driver crashes into a Mount Pleasant police cruiser stopped on the bridge. Two police cruisers were on the bridge because the officers were assisting with a disabled vehicle on the southbound lanes. Another car struck one of squad cars from behind.

Jan. 28-30, 2014: Extreme winter weather creates bridge conditions unlike any seen before in the span's relatively brief history. Because of ice, the bridge is closed for 43 hours, causing traffic jams on Interstate 526.

Jan. 31, 2014: Pieces of frozen precipitation up to 10 feet long, 1 foot wide and three-quarters of an inch thick break free from the bridge support cables and towers and fall onto traffic, damaging cars. The tallest part of the bridge is 380 feet above the road surface. Because of the height, some of the ice was falling with considerable velocity. One “ice bomb” landed on the windshield of a woman's car, sending shards of glass into her lap. The ordeal prompted a six-hour closure and another traffic nightmare for motorists.

Jan. 31, 2014: The Mount Pleasant man who stopped traffic on the bridge in 2012 again stops near the top of the northbound span and is taken into custody following a brief standoff. Officers shut down part of the bridge as they handcuffed him. He told dispatchers in a 911 call, “I've already been to this bridge once before to stop it.” Northbound traffic was blocked for more than an hour. The man, who avoided criminal charges in the first bridge confrontation, was jailed without bail on a felony charge of stalking and misdemeanor counts of making threats and failure to stop for blue lights.

Feb. 12-14, 2014: A second blast of miserable weather closes the bridge for 51 hours.

Feb. 27, 2014: A 41-year-old Georgia man is accused of presenting himself as an undercover police officer to a woman he picked up at a King Street nightclub. An automated license plate camera on the bridge captures a photo of a Range Rover around the time in which the victim and suspect were driving over it.

March 5, 2015: Four people are injured and afternoon traffic is stopped for about two hours after a landscape truck pulling a trailer rear-ends five vehicles on the bridge.

April 9, 2015: The pedestrian walkway is shut down after a protest on the bridge is announced. News of a 4 p.m. protest blocking traffic from Charleston to Mount Pleasant started circulating on social media, but it is canceled. The walkway remained closed throughout rush hour, forcing those who walk or bike to work and back to find an alternate route or wait.

May 6, 2015: A protest during rush hour on the Ravenel Bridge ended in arrests. Charleston and Mount Pleasant police responded to the blocked span about 5 p.m. The protesters were out of the roadway by 5:15 p.m. and traffic was flowing. Four females were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

May 26, 2015: A tanker truck leaks about 300 gallons of diesel fuel on the bridge after it collides with a car that had swerved to avoid a stalled vehicle. Officials closed the span for nine hours because fire and hazardous-materials crews had to wait until a truck arrived from Georgetown to remove what fuel was left in the 7,800-gallon tanker.

June 21, 2015: At least 10,000 people walk the bridge as a show of solidarity in the wake of the shooting that killed nine at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Source: Post and Courier archives