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Building Below the Water Line

Shoring up the parts of leadership nobody (but God) sees.

Picked up in a Vermont "used book" store: David McCullough's The Great Bridge (Simon and Schuster, 1972). As usual McCullough (among the best of modern writers) tells a great story, this time of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which arched the East River and joined Manhattan to Brooklyn.

In June 1872, the Chief Engineer of the project wrote: "To such of the general public as might imagine that no work had been done on the New York tower, because they see no evidence of it above the water, I should simply remark that the amount of the masonry and concrete laid on that foundation during the past winter, under water, is equal in quantity to the entire masonry of the Brooklyn tower visible today above the water line."

The Brooklyn Bridge remains a major transportation artery in New York City today because, 135 years ago, the Chief Engineer and his construction team did their most patient and daring work where no one could see it: on the foundations of the towers below the water line. It ...

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