As one worker cut into a piece of steel with a torch, another operated an excavator — missing at first, but then picking up another portion of what used to be the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The pieces they each wrangled Friday couldn’t have weighed more than one short ton, less than 0.02% of the 50,000 short tons of bridge wreckage that fell into the nearby Patapsco River. Yet they represented a tiny step in a painstaking, arduous process.

When the Key Bridge collapsed into the midnight-black water in the early hours of March 26, it created a seemingly insurmountable task: clearing the channel of debris and the massive cargo ship that created the mess. The scale of the salvage job is difficult to comprehend, and although crews have begun to remove the wreckage from the channel, piece by piece, one can’t simply throw thousands of tons into a trash bin.

Instead, a nearby facility was swiftly tasked with processing the crumpled steel and concrete. Disasters demand such improvisation. The Cruise Maryland Terminal is now a center of salvage and recovery operations. A community center was converted to assist small businesses. And Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point, a logistics hub where freight trains, ships and trucks meet, has turned 5 of its 3,300 acres into a scrap steel processing center for the remains of the bridge.

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Author: Hayes Gardner, The Baltimore Sun
Image: Jerry Jackson, The Baltimore Sun