The Brew: Baltimore Strong, Washington Sweet

By Al Perrotta Published on March 27, 2024

Happy Wednesday!

Yesterday morning was spent outside the U.S. Supreme Court, attending the dueling rallies between those defending the cause of life and those defending the industry of death. I wrote all about what I found in “Life and Death at the Supreme Court,” which will be out later today.

A Visit to the Spectacular Side of The Swamp

After several hours of listening to assorted chanting and screaming about how “abortion is health care,” “Abortion Pills Forever!” “Adoption is human trafficking,” “Pro-life is a lie,” and all manner of ugliness, I needed a bit of beauty, so I made my way to the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin. The blossoms are just past peak bloom, yet still filling the skyline with a magical pink-tinged white canopy. I gave a word of thanks to the Japanese, who gave the nation’s capitol its original cherry trees. (In return, we gave them baseball, so I suppose we could call it even, though on a day like yesterday, with countless people from around the globe enjoying the splendor of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, I’d say the U.S.A. made out like bandits.)

(Photo credit: Al Perrotta)

Rain is expected over the next couple days, and with the blossoms already fragile, the opportunities to see the annual display are now fading.

As dangerous as D.C. can be, as wretched as The Swamp is, for a few weeks each year, the cherry blossoms turn it into one of the most beautiful cities on earth. And as you walk back past monuments, museums, and the wonderful melange of tourists, the crime and corruption seems to vanish.

For a couple of moments, the blossoms allowed me to forget the battle in front of the Supreme Court …

… and the tragedy at the other end of the Baltimore Washington Parkway.

“Baltimore Strong”: The Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge

The news and accompanying video in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday were hard to grasp. Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River after being rammed by a cargo ship. Mayor Brandon M. Scott said it looked like something out of an action movie, with more than a mile’s worth of bridge dropping into the cold water below. As of last evening, six construction workers were still missing. Vehicles have been spotted at river’s bottom. The ship’s urgent “mayday” was sent too late to get everyone off the span. One dares not contemplate what the death toll might have been had the bridge gone down during rush hour.

How does a cargo ship just bang into a pylon? Stupidity? (No, the pilots are pros.) Sabotage? A cyberattack? Terrorism? (Authorities quickly ruled that out, though it did nothing to stop the speculation abounding online.) Mechanical failure? (Ugh. After all the issues with airplanes recently, now we have to worry about ships?)

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Gov. Wes Moore spoke for us Marylanders. “All of our hearts are broken. We feel your loss. We are thinking of you. And we will always be thinking of you. We pray for the construction workers who were on the Key Bridge and we pray for everyone who has been touched by this tragedy and their families, and all of their loved ones. But Maryland, we will get through this, because that is the Maryland spirit, and that is what Maryland is made of. We are Maryland tough and we are Baltimore strong. So in the face of heartbreak, we come together. We embrace each other and we come back stronger.”

How fitting that the bridge was named after Francis Scott Key, composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After my morning at the Supreme Court, I found myself at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, feeling compelled to look at the torn and tattered banner Key so eloquently wrote about 210 years ago when Baltimore took another shot to the chin as British soldiers were throwing everything they had at Charm City. The bombardment lasted all night, but Baltimore hung tough, and in the morning “the flag was still there.” The British attack had failed to subdue the colonists.

Today, Baltimore is in dire straits thanks to incompetence and more than half a century of Democratic rule. (To give you some idea of how long Democrats have run the show there, Nancy Pelosi was a teen beauty queen when her father was the mayor.) With this tragedy, the city’s dire condition will be compounded by having its port closed indefinitely to cargo ships and one of its major thoroughfares shut down. However, history has shown Baltimore is scrappy. It’ll get the ships moving, the 18-wheelers rolling, and that bridge back up. Baltimore (or as the locals pronounce it, “Bawl’mer”) survived the British Navy, the dilapidation and decay of the ’70s, decades of uniparty rule, corruption, and incompetence, and even the D’Angelo family owning the Orioles.

I don’t have much confidence that U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will build that bridge back better. But I do trust the people and city who built Camden Yards.


Stream Managing Editor Al Perrotta was born and lives in Maryland, and worked for years in downtown D.C.

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