JIM THORPE -- A new $28 million bridge is finally open in Jim Thorpe after more than two years of construction.
"I never seen a bridge built like this and I love it. It is beautiful. That's the most beautiful bridge I ever seen,” said Darlene Frohnheiser of Jim Thorpe.
This new PennDOT bridge replaces the old Route 903 bridge.
It sits 100 feet above the Lehigh River, is nearly 1,000 feet long, with a roadway and a walkway. Hundreds came to the bridge opening ceremony, not to just marvel at the sight of it.
"We wanted to come here for the dedication, bittersweet but it's such an honor,” said Mary Poko of Summit Hill.
"I am a veteran, this bridge is named after a veteran that died in Iraq, to save another,” explained Theodore Hittner of Jim Thorpe.
The new bridge is named after a Jim Thorpe native and fallen hero Army Sergeant Andrew "A.J." Baddick.
“[What do you want people to know about A.J. when they cross this bridge and see his name?] That he gave his life, that he died in a river. But I want him to remember how he enjoyed the river,” said A.J.’s mother Ann Adams.
In 2003, Sergeant Baddick died in Iraq trying to save another soldier whose Humvee was attacked and flipped into murky water. Sergeant Baddick, the boy who grew up swimming in the Lehigh River, dove into the water to save the other soldier. But, he ever came back to the surface.
"Sergeant Baddick's actions are a reflection of the values he acquired as a son of Jim Thorpe,” said Representative Matt Cartwright.
Baddick would have had a birthday this week. He probably would've celebrated it at the river he grew up on. Now, his name will live on above it.