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Ironworkers to hold memorial for bridge collapse victims despite COVID-19 challenges

The Iron Workers Local will hold a virtual ceremony amid the pandemic

Iron Workers Local 97 in Vancouver plans to carry on the tradition of commemorating the Second Narrows Bridge, now known as the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, collapse on June 17 despite the COVID-19 challenges.

The span connecting East Vancouver and the North Shore collapsed while under construction 62 years ago and 18 ironworkers out of 78 died that day. Lucien "Lou" Lessard, a 91-year old ironworker living in a retirement home, is the only surviving ironworker today. 

 "Never did I think that I would have to choose between honouring my fallen brothers and protecting my vulnerable neighbours," Lou said with a heavy heart about this year's memorial ceremony. "Not a day goes by that I don't think about my brothers who passed, not a day goes by that I don't cherish the gift of life." 

 An intimate memorial ceremony, consisting of the Iron Workers local president, a reverend, and a piper leading the wreath procession, will take place on June 17 in place of the traditional large memorial event the local has organized in the previous years. It will be broadcast via Facebook Live @joinlocal97 and Zoom. A video of the bridge collapse and survivors, including an interview with the last surviving ironworker Lou, will be posted on Facebook live. 

While Local 97 and Lou will not be able to memorialize the 62nd anniversary of the bridge collapse tragedy as they have done in the past, they are determined to honour those who died in the tragic collapse with a small and mainly virtual memorial ceremony this year. It will allow Lou to share memories and honour his fellow men who died in the tragic collapse. 

"We have lost all but one surviving members of the bridge collapse in the recent years, so it's important that we continue the memorial tradition and honour the memory of the lives lost in the tragic collapse," said Paul Beacom, president, Local 97. "Our local is committed to preserving those memories and sharing them with the families of those ironworkers who are not with us anymore, despite the challenge of COVID-19 and the need to avoid social gatherings."

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