[Baltimore Sun] Hope floats as the Dali is freed from Baltimore bridge | STAFF COMMENTARY

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There are moments when Baltimore is unified and times when it is not. An appreciation and respect for the Orioles and Ravens, for steamed crabs and cold beer, for Maryland history makers from Frederick Douglass to Thurgood Marshall enrich our sense of community. Yet partisan politics, class division, violent crime and systemic racism undermine that sense of pride, of belonging, of shared purpose and unity. Given all that, it was still somewhat surprising to look out across a certain stretch of the Patapsco River and find oneself truly moved — and dare we say emotionally lifted — not by what was there but by what was not.

Seven weeks after the terrible collision between the Dali and the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the massive container ship was no longer stuck amid the wreckage. Early Monday, with much of the fallen steel girders blasted and set aside, a small fleet of five tug boats pushed and pulled the refloated, significantly damaged vessel to Seagirt Marine Terminal. As Gov. Wes Moore observed from the river bank this morning, this absence proved a “beautiful sight.” It marked a critical point of progress. And it was achieved ahead of schedule and without serious injury to rescue and salvage workers, divers or U.S. Coast Guard crews. This is not a cause for celebration, exactly — not given the six road workers who died or the enormous economic cost incurred and the uncertainties that still remain. But we cannot dismiss the feeling of hope it inspired.

Governor Moore likes to trot out the phrase, “Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong,” as a kind of post-Key Bridge collapse mantra, and it can seem, at least at first blush, a bit corny and pat — like an ad campaign with the inevitable t-shirts and bumper stickers on sale in the lobby. It is easy to be cynical in an age of internet-fueled hucksterism. But there’s also something to be said for finding words to describe our shared experience and how, at least so far, we have gathered together in solidarity to mourn our dead, to provide for those who have suffered, and to plan for the future. That the Greater Baltimore Committee has sponsored a Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Alliance to help raise money for port-related businesses and their employees suggests the slogan is here to stay.

The extrication of the Dali is just one small step. The next will be the reopening of the shipping channel expected before the month is over. And then there will be further restoration of port traffic, a complete clearing of the bridge remains, planning for a new span followed by construction that may cost $1.9 billion and could last well into 2028 or longer. Meanwhile, we will have to find ways to ease highway traffic congestion worsened by the loss of the Interstate 695 connection. Memorial Day weekend vacationers will soon provide the latest test. Whether we successfully vault all those hurdles with our shared sense of community, purpose and strength intact remains to be seen.

How is Baltimore looking from afar? Well, so far so good. This week, the time lapse video showing the slow withdrawal of the Dali in the early morning hours made national news. The message: Baltimore is bouncing back, Baltimore is moving forward, Baltimore’s wounds are healing. Maybe “pride” isn’t quite the right word to describe what we’re feeling, but then perhaps “family” hits closer to home. What is community if not extended family? And even in Washington, D.C., with all its political dysfunction, support from the White House and Congress for financing the bridge rebuild seems on track as well.

So thanks to all those who worked so hard to free the Dali and to those whose work is really just starting. We see you. We appreciate you. You have given Baltimore hope. That is a big part of the governor’s “beautiful sight” as well. Now, if we could only bottle this spirit and make sure it stays in stock. There are many other challenges this city needs to tackle.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.

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