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Man in iconic Gordie Howe Bridge photo is 2nd generation ironworker from Southgate

'Being able to make that connection from Detroit over to Windsor has been the opportunity of a lifetime'
Posted at 11:03 PM, Jun 14, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — In a historic step in the completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the two sides of the bridge were finally connected on Friday, with workers from both countries meeting in the middle.

It happened in the early morning hours before the break of dawn during the culmination of a shift that started at midnight and a project that’s lasted two years.

“That's a huge step," Casey Whitson of Iron Workers Local 25 said. "It’s been two years since we’ve been working toward the completion of this bridge and now that it’s done, it's a huge thing.”

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An iconic photo captured the moment Canadian and American iron workers finally met after two years of working apart. Whitson, a second generation iron worker from Southgate, is the American in the photo.

“We would see each other, but we were far, across the river, apart for all these months working," Whitson said of his Canadian counterparts. "To actually get to be able to meet each other and shake hands and say hello, and be able to meet each other at the final connection was really cool.”

Growing up, Whitson watched his Ddd build the Renaissance Center and Joe Louis Arena, knowing he too wanted a hand in shaping Detroit’s future. He finally got that chance 25 years into his career.

“Being able to make that connection from Detroit over to Windsor has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Whitson said. "Now people get to see it and look at that bridge, and I know I built it and they get to see it all the time, so that’s pretty cool.”

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It's a milestone moment that commuters stuck in traffic at the tunnel were excited to see. They're happy to have another crossing coming soon.

“I think it’s amazing. It's one of the biggest border crossings I believe in the world but definitely North America,” Patricia Chraith of Windsor said. "Anyway we can increase trade and increase the relationship between the two countries and get goods and people across faster, I think it’s going to be good for both sides of the border.”

Chopper 7: Final edge girders installed connecting both halves of Gordie Howe Bridge

Final edge girders installed connecting both halves of Gordie Howe Bridge

“I think it’s pretty awesome," Matt Joseph of Sterling Heights said. "Especially naming it after Gordie Howe, one of the great legends of Detroit.”

It took two years of 10 hour days, six days a week to get to this moment. One of the first things Whitson did after the photo was have lunch with his dad. They're just two of the many iron workers leaving their mark on the history and future of Detroit.

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"He's 79 years old, so he’s enjoying what I'm doing because he used to do it too,” Whitson said. "I followed in his footsteps when I graduated high school and got to be able to continue on just like my dad... I call my Dad everyday. Whenever I do something, I take a picture and send it to him. He's very proud."

Despite this historic step, there’s still a lot more work to be done to get the bridge open in the fall of 2025.