For my first two years at Harvard, the John W. Weeks Memorial Bridge, which sits right outside my Leverett dorm, was nothing more than a means of crossing the Charles River.
But during our final week in Cambridge in the spring of 2020, in the limbo after we learned we’d be leaving campus, I spent at least an hour each day on the Weeks Bridge. It felt like a safe space during such uncertain times — no matter what the future held, I’d still be able to sit on the ledge and watch the sunset.
While preparing to write this piece, I brought a friend, two breakfast sandwiches from Black Sheep Bagels, and a couple of blankets to the Weeks Bridge on a November afternoon. Our only goal was to watch.
It was 70 degrees out, an outlier for that week and the last day of nice weather of the season — it almost felt like a sign.
The bridge was crowded, with constant foot and bike traffic in both directions. A friend walking back from the SEC waved to me. Two shirtless men parked their bikes and started a dance battle, grooving to ’90s pop music.
A family of four attempted to take a selfie, and I offered to take the photo for them, making sure they switched sides to avoid glare. A biker rode by, pulling her dog behind her on a trailer clearly intended for kids. Another man talked on the phone about the party he was hosting the following weekend.
The bridge serves a multitude of functions — it just depends on who you ask.
When talking with some fellow Leverett students, I realized they, too, had done their fair share of observing everyday life on the bridge.
As a part of an assignment for her creative writing class, Lucy Liu ’22 took interest in the plant life on the riverbank next to the bridge. “I actually took a nature walk from Weeks to Anderson with [Leverett] Faculty Dean Brian [D. Farrell], and we tried to ID the plants we saw,” she says. “It was really cool because when you look at the riverbank plants from a distance it seems like this disorderly mess of greenery, but when you look closer there’s enormous beauty and diversity in the plants.”
Similarly, Sarah M. Lightbody ’22 finds a unique solace in the bridge. “I really try to see as many sunsets as possible — I go to the exact halfway mark of the bridge and watch, most of the time solo, but sometimes with friends,” she says. The bridge is special “because it’s somewhere exact that I can return to and watch the days and seasons change while still feeling grounded.”
And for others, the bridge has been a part of a centuries-long Harvard tradition — jumping off the bridge into the Charles River is a bucket-list item that officially stamps their experience at the College.
While it might seem like just another bridge to some passersby, the Weeks Bridge is witness to the many comings and goings of campus. After returning to campus after more than 15 months away, I still go to the bridge on a weekly basis — just to sit, turn on my music, and watch.
— Magazine Editor-at-Large Scott P. Mahon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @scott_mahon.