The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Bridge Too Close

Recently, I had the chance to visit my hometown of Pittsburgh.  Though I’m not that far away and get there pretty much as often as I want to, I always return with a twisted mix of emotions.  While I wade in nostalgia most of the time and have great memories of the ‘Burgh – living a bit away for a while has made it both difficult and easy to return home.  When I left Pittsburgh with starry eyes and a heart bursting with new found, true love,  I was 24 years old – so just 7 years after the abortion.  When I look back over this journey of mine, I realize, sometimes so painfully it’s hard to breathe, just what all took place in those 7 years before my knight in shining armor showed up.  I’d like to say I was well on my way to turning my life around right before Prince Charming arrived, and in some ways I was. I had put my foot down on most of the garbage that inhabited my life until then.  I made promises to myself that I would not allow anyone to hurt me ever again, not my body, and not my heart. I had made resolutions that my life was going to be different.  I had a good job and my own apartment and my first brand-new car.  In a lot of ways, things, and I, were all good.  That is, except for the loss of Grace, whose name I knew, but whose life I had no idea how to grieve for or if I even should or could.  Acknowledgment of her was stuffed down in my soul somewhere.  I had told Prince Charming about her, well not really about “her,” but about the abortion.  It was a short conversation and he made it easy.  It was in the past and it didn’t matter to him.  What neither of us realized is that it mattered to me and it would be decades before I realized how much.

Anyway, when I do go back home, I make conscious efforts to avoid certain places.  I avoid places where a bad memory resides or some bad experience, the memory of which is torture enough so that I don’t need the physical reminders of it at all.  I’ve talked a lot in these “pages” about my lonely walk across the 6th Street (now the Roberto Clemente) Bridge to the abortion clinic in downtown Pittsburgh.  That bridge has come to have so much meaning for me and I don’t yet have it all figured out.  Is it a bridge between my two lives?  Is it a walk away from Grace? Is it a walk toward my destiny?  Does it bridge the gap between then and now, a bridge too far?  Is it just a bridge?  No matter what it is – it’s a bridge that I haven’t walked across in over 20 years and one I turn my eyes from while passing by whenever I’m in town.  

Adding to the bad memories of this bridge is the fact that my mom and I both worked near each other in town while I was in college and we would walk across the same bridge to go to lunch together.  I’m not sure how many times we did that, but it was a lot.  I don’t remember if I thought about it then – I’m sure I had to at some point or other – when we crossed over the hump in the middle of the span and the Fulton Building came into full view… did she ever think about me going there for an abortion? Did she ever think about it at all? Had she ever thought that she paid for her grandchild to be snuffed out? Did she wonder if I was thinking about it?  Did she care?  I have no idea, and I never will, of what may or may not have gone through her mind when we walked past that building together on our way to our many lunches.  

In a sense, the bridge came to be a symbol of everything that happened and the utter loneliness of my long walk across it with Grace still part of me and the lonely, painful walk back without her. 

I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to return to the bridge at some point, not sure of what I would do once I got there or what it might mean for me.  This last trip home I went back.

I parked my car on the north shore and started toward the bridge.  It was a beautiful, breezy spring day with puffy white clouds and happy tourists around.  I started walking across and stopped in the middle.  I started walking again, and stopped again a few steps later to catch my breath which wasn’t lost due to exertion but for everything else.  

I stood on the bridge and looked at the Fulton Building.  I remembered the abortion clinic was on the 3rd floor.  I leaned back against the yellow metal and just was still for a while.  I’m afraid of heights but I forced myself to the other side of the sidewalk where I could see down to the river below if I stood on my tiptoes or peeked through the spaces in the metal.  The familiar thoughts came to mind and I wondered if I had considered jumping 27 years ago.  I wondered if anyone would have cared.  I wondered if my mom would have fessed up and told my Dad that she knew the reason I had jumped.  More things that I’ll never know. 

I took a deep breath and walked down the other side.  There was always a panhandler on the bridge then – he’s still there – in the same spot.  I stopped at the end of the bridge for a while.  I’m not sure what I expected to do or feel.  I suppose maybe I just wanted to walk across it not as a pregnant 17 year old scared out of her mind or back across it as a 17 year old who just had her first experience with a gynecologist – who just happened to perform an abortion along with it.  I wanted to walk across it as who I am today – or who I fancy myself to be today.  The problem was, or is, that that simple walk across a bridge made me forget for a few moments who I am today or who I think I am.  Then I got angry, or sad, or both, at how close I still stand to despair. I began to think maybe I have never been far at all.  

I know that most of the thoughts I was having weren’t true, but that didn’t make them hurt any less.  As my usual m.o., I took on this challenge alone.  I hadn’t even told my husband what I had planned on doing.  So, in a sense, it was my own fault that I was there alone, without anyone to help me process what I was feeling or even just to hold my hand.  I half dialed his number and hung up.  I contemplated a call to the Good Father to ask him to pray with me at that moment, but decided against it.  So, I tried to say my own prayer.

I stood there looking up at the 3rd floor windows of the building remembering that the procedure room had no windows at all.  I hadn’t decided before if I would go inside the building.  After 27 years and a few million dollar restorations, it hardly would be the same at all.  But, in some sense it was hallowed ground.  Grace was killed there. It was the closest I’d get to any real “burial” site for her.  I felt like I owed it to her and to all the others who died there.

The doorman smiled and said hello as he opened the over sized doors to the lobby.  It is a beautiful building and the lobby is grand and added to my feeling so small.  I sat down in a plush, pretty chair just for a moment or two.  I was afraid the knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat wouldn’t be contained for much more than that.  So, I got up and walked back through the door as the smiling doorman wished me a good day.

I sat down on a bench outside the door in the warm sunshine and waiting for my trembling legs to steady.  Right across the street there is a parking garage, and next to that another parking garage. In fact, there are probably 5 or 6 parking garages on the block.  I thought about why my Mom hadn’t told me to park there.  It’s right across the street.  The rate that day was $5.00 so 27 years ago it couldn’t have been much at all.  But, yet, she told me to park across the bridge in the Three Rivers Stadium Parking lot because it was free.  I almost laughed at the idea that she had given me $300 in cash to pay for the abortion but no extra for anesthesia and no extra for parking.

I stood up and turned back toward the way I’d come.  With each step, I tried to remind myself that I wasn’t 17 anymore and that I wasn’t afraid anymore.  I tried to remember that I had a husband who loved me and tried to forget all the ones who came before who hurt me with words or hands.  I tried to remember that I have two little girls on this earth who need me and who hopefully will someday know and love Grace.  I was almost back to my car on the other side of the river when I couldn’t hold the tears in any longer and they streamed down my face underneath my sunglasses, mascara staining my cheeks.  In the safety of my car, there was no holding anything in and I sat there for a while saying the only prayer I could, “Jesus.”  

I had a long drive home and a long time to think.  I know that I’ve done a lot of healing these last few years.  I know that I‘ve worked through much.  I know that I’m forgiven for the abortion.  I know that I am a child of God and that He means for me to be here on this earth whether I feel like it or not.  And even though I know all of this, I don’t always feel the truth of any of it. I still need reminders. If anything, the trek across the bridge cemented the fact that I still have healing to do, things to work out, anger to deal with, room to grow. I hadn’t returned from my sojourn a conqueror. If anything, I returned quite the same as I was before it.  But, I did realize that I need to find a way to not be one step away from despair at any given moment.  I don't have to be stuck in the middle of a bridge between then and now, but I also don’t have to pick a side, do I?


  1. God bless you! This writing is really beautiful. I will be praying for your healing this week.

  2. I walk across that bridge a few times each year for sporting events. Ever since I "met" you, I've prayed for you every time I walked across it. And the prayer your prayed, is the only one that matters.

    Praying for you as you continue to process your visit and walk.

  3. Great post and my heart was pounding. You were so brave! A few years ago on vacation we went through Rockford where I had my abortion and I couldn't even physically lift my head up till we passed the city. I was terrified I would catch a glimpse of the clinic. Anyway, I liked how you reminded yourself you weren't the 17 year old who walked the bridge before.

  4. Thank you. I lost two children of my own to abortion (my wife did not want any more children and made this decision against my will). It's a deep loss, and one I can't really talk about.

  5. I have been reading your blog for a while and I live around Pittsburgh myself. Like Rebecca, I walk across that bridge every now and then. I will be praying for you and Grace, especially when I walk around there.

  6. Inspiringly courageous. Thank you. You are not alone. Keep reaching out!

  7. Thank you for sharing this with us. May the grace of God be with you and help you find the peace you seek — "that peace which passes all understanding".

  8. Are you *currently* being sent into Hell forever ... automatically excommunicated (outside) of God’s Catholic Church ?

    Answer: Yes you are ... you can reverse it ... please continue.

    Council of Florence, Session 8, 22 Nov 1439 -- infallible Source of Dogma >
    "Whoever wills to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he holds the Catholic faith. Unless a person keeps this faith whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish eternally."

    You must believe the Catholic Dogma to be in the Church ... Dogma you have *never* seen.

    Site > ... infallible Dogma throughout.

    The Catholic Faith *is not* Bible interpretation ... it is the Catholic infallible Sources of Dogma. The Catholic Church didn’t even define the Bible’s New Testament Canon until 397 A.D. at the Council of Carthage.

    - - - -

    Can a group which enforces the opposite, the opposite, and the opposite of the Catholic unchangeable Dogma be the Catholic Church?

    No, it cannot possibly be the Catholic Church ... and promotion of the opposite of the Catholic Dogma is exactly what the vatican-2 heretic cult does ... and has been doing since it’s founding on 8 December 1965 at the Vatican.

    The vatican-2 heresy does not have the Office of the Papacy ... only the Catholic Church has the Papacy.

    The Dogma cannot “change” or be “reversed” ... God does not “change”.

    The founding documents of the vatican-2 heretic cult … the “vatican-2 council” documents … have well over 200 heresies *against* prior defined unchangeable Dogma. Every (apparent) bishop at the “council” approved the mountain of heresy, which caused their automatic excommunication, see Section 13.2 of the below site.

    - - - -

    Section 12 > Anti-Christ vatican-2 heresies (50 listed) ... followed by many Catholic corrections.

    Sections 13 and 13.1 > Photographic *proof* of heresy at the Vatican.

    Because of … the Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy or for physical participation in a heretic cult (such as the v-2 cult) …

    … we were all placed, body and soul, *outside* of Christianity (the Catholic Church) on 8 December 1965 … the close date of the “council”.

    Section 13.2 > Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy or participating in a heretic cult such as ... vatican-2, lutheran, methodist, evangelical, etc.

    Section 107 > St. Athanasius (died 373 A.D.) ... “Even if the Church were reduced to a handful ...” - - during the “arian” heresy ... we are there again, but worse.

    Section 13.3 > Matt 16:18, Gates of Hell scripture ... is *not* about the Office of the Papacy ... four Dogmatic Councils defined it ... that heresy will not cause the Dogma to disappear.

    Section 13.4 > The vatican-2 heretic cult does not have the Office of the Papacy only the Catholic Church has the Papacy.

    Section 13.6 > The Catholic Dogma on Jurisdiction and Automatic Excommunication for heresy define that ... God has allowed Catholic Jurisdiction ... for Mass and Confession to disappear from the world. There is no such thing as Catholic Mass outside of the Catholic Church.

    Non-Catholic heresies such as “vatican-2”, “sspx”, “sspv”, “cmri”, etc. ... do not have Catholic Mass.

    Section 19.1 > Dogma on Abjuration for *re-entering* Christianity (the Catholic Church) … after being automatically excommunicated. A Formal Abjuration is provided here also.

    Section 10.2 > Returning to a state of grace, in places and times when Confession is not available, like now.

    - - - -

    Second Council of Constantinople, 553 A.D. -- infallible Source of Dogma >
    "The heretic, even though he has not been condemned formally by any individual, in reality brings anathema on himself, having cut himself off from the way of truth by his heresy."

    Blessed John Eudes, died 1680 >
    “The greatest evil existing today is heresy, an infernal rage which hurls countless souls into eternal damnation.”

    Everything you must know, believe, and do to get to Heaven is on > >

    Our Lady of Conquest
    Pray for us

    1. Really? I can't lie and say there aren't moments - even every day sometimes - when I think I'm going to hell for having an abortion but those thoughts are not for any of the many, long-winded, ridiculous, unfounded, and almost incoherent ramblings above. The cure for those thoughts when I have them - not as you suggest - but as I have learned... get to Mass, go to confession, talk to someone, prayer, holy water, go to Mass the next day, adoration and hold on until it passes.

    2. Just wanted to let you know I subscribe to comments when I comment and this poster, Victoria DePalma, is leaving this exact comment around the blogosphere. I give you credit for replying, and said some extra prayers for you when I saw it come across, but wanted you to know she's just spamming.
      Though, I love your reply - yes, Mass, Confession...all of it!
      Sending some extra prayers your way this morning!

  9. You have been in prayers......

  10. Please read the letter written in The Denver Catholic Register after my meeting with Archbishop Aquila of Denver. A man who very compassionatley heard my own story and of the healing I recieved from a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat. If you have not attended one, I highly recommend that you attend. I wanted to share one thing his letter entitled, Jesus, teach us to imitate your mercy. ..."some people have failed to grasp the power and depth of God’s mercy, which is able to wipe away every sin. Abortion is undeniably a grave sin, but it is by no means a sin beyond God’s is not widely known that abortion not only takes an innocent life but also inflicts deep wounds on the mother and father. Christ longs to forgive and heal those who have sinned, no matter what the sin, and he desires to do so through his Church.

    Please take his words to heart. You are forgiven through the mercy of Christ! Speaking about it and letting women know it is not the answer but rejects the essance of our nature is important.

    Do I have regret? yes Do I wish it never happened? yes Will there always be sorrow? yes Am I forgiven and set free? YES! To not believe in Christ's love and infinite mercy is an insult to his suffering. Grasp it and proclaim it.

    I invite you to seek out a Rachel's Vineyard retreat in your area or come to Denver where there are women full of love for you that want to help you heal.

    The Archbishop's full letter: