I was traveling toward Sonnett, Pennsylvania on highway 271 around 2:15 pm on Friday, October 30, 1988. I was a freshman at Penn State on autumn break headed home.
A sudden detour took me off course onto highway 47 into unfamiliar territory. I followed a winding road for miles, reading signs that read, “Hamers Bridge 12 miles”. Four or five minutes later another one said, “Hamers Bridge 4 miles”, the last one before I entered the bridge said, “You are now approaching Hamers Bridge”.
As I entered the bridge, the atmosphere changed from day to night, storm clouds blew in from an otherwise blue sky, and rains came down in torrents, causing my vision to be blurred by mist and fog. I dimmed and undimmed my lights trying to make my way across that bridge of no return.
Streaks of lightening across a blue sky tormented me. The thunder made the bridge shake, the wind crashed to and fro and made the tree limbs bow and bend with all the weight of the weeping rain.
I strained my eyes to see a figure come slowly toward me. It held a lantern in its hands and the lantern was swinging to and fro, from side to side. I either stopped or I ran over it.
I came to a screaming halt right in front of that thing. The lantern moved and I could see it swinging right in the direction of the passenger side. I rolled down my window with the electric button and I was looking into the eyes of panic. Those brown eyes danced at me as I heard her cry, “Pease sir, will you give me a ride”? No one ever travels this road and I thought I would be stranded out here forever. My car broke down some miles back, and I have to get to Hamer".
I said, “Why yes, just jump on in”. She swung the door open wide, and fell in. As she turned to look at me, she yanked off her green hood, and her curly blond hair fell around her face. I gunned the gas and we cleared the bridge in minutes, and I noticed at the very end of the bridge, the storm ended abruptly.
I looked at her and every fiber of her clothes was as dry as could be. Summer time took over her smile as it radiated from the inside out, capturing my soul with some kind of natural peace.
She said, “Hi, my name is Elizabeth Hamer, I am so very glad that you picked me up. I have an engagement at Hamer Inn tonight at 6:00 pm. I am returning to my home town to sing my brand new song, “Ministering Angels”.
I ask her, “Elizabeth, did you say that it is a brand new song”? That song has been my favorite since I was twelve years old. Does the chorus go like this”? I started to sing:
“Ministering angels from up above
Sent to me with all Gods Love
Sent to guide, sent to love
Ministering angels from up above”
She said, “How did you know that”? And then she said with a hint of excitement in her voice, “Can you please come tonight”?
I said, “Elizabeth, I will be there with bells on”.
She said, “Thank you”!
I let her out right in front of Hamer Inn in Hamer, Pennsylvania.
Hanging around Hamer until late afternoon, I grabbed a news paper off the stand and entered the local diner for lunch. With my cheeseburger, fries and Pepsi in front of me, I opened the paper to these head lines:
Around 2:30 today, thirty five people were killed on Highway 271 as the bridge across the river collapsed sending whole families plunging into the river.
Instantly I started thanking God for sparing my life! That is exactly the time I would have been on that bridge.
At 6 pm I walked across the road to Hamer Inn. I opened the door and slowly walked inside. To no surprise of mine, the history of Hamer was plastered all over that lobby wall.
The one bit of history I was hunting for loomed up in front of me:
On October 30, 1914, Elizabeth Hamer was killed as she was headed back home for a singing engagement. Hamers Bridge floated away during a violet thunder storm taking Elizabeth down stream.
I walked out that door humming a little song: “Ministering Angels from up above”!
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