Kahnawake Mohawks mark 1907 Quebec bridge disaster

Residents of Kahnawake commemorate the 1907 Quebec bridge collapse, which killed 75 people, including 33 men from their Mohawk community.

Residents of Kahnawake near Montreal have begun a yearlong commemoration of the Quebec bridge disaster, which devastated the Mohawk community 99 years ago.

On Aug. 29, 1907, the world's longest cantilever bridge being constructed from Quebec City to the south shore— now the site of Levis— collapsed into the St. Lawrence River just as workers were preparing to leave for the day.

Of the 75 men who died, 33 were from Kahnawake. More than two-thirds of them were married, leaving behind 24 widows and dozens of children.

The project was one of the first to cement the reputation of Quebec Mohawks as world-renowned high-steel workers, whose skills have been used in building many of North America's most prominent skyscrapers and bridges.

The Quebec bridge was designed to be 853 metres long, including a single span of 548 metres, almost 46 metres above the water, to allow the passage of ocean-going vessels.

Although engineers noticed that the girders had begun shifting, work continued until the whistle soundedtheend of the dayat 5:30 p.m. Two minutes later, the structure crumpled and plunged the workers into the St. Lawrence.

More than 60 people travelled to the site from Kahnawake on Tuesday for ceremonies commemorating the event.

"The purpose is that our men and our families moved on after this terrible disaster, and they became world-renowned really in the area of construction. They built New York City," said Connie Meloche, one of the organizers.

Meloche said Kahnawake's younger generation needs to hear about that resilience in the face of tragedy and learn from it.