At Midnight they blew the bridges.
The crowds had gathered hours, if not days, before. The lucky ones were ushered past the Missouri State Police by resident relatives. The Illinois National Guard soldiers sent to clear a path instead cheerfully deserted, bringing tales of hardship and devastation, of outdated facilities and obsolete equipment. A last minute surge by unemployed educators was beaten back, with losses.
The sharp cracks of the explosives contrasted with the splashes of the concrete slabs falling into the Mississippi's turgid flow. From Hannibal to Cape Giradreau night turned to day in bursts of pyrotechnic brilliance, leaving flash-blinded retinas, concussed eardrums and howls of despair.
In St. Louis the middle of the old Chain of Rocks bridge twisted and tumbled but ultimately held, its span providing the sole link between state solvency and unremitting governmental poverty. Desperate refugees flooded the skeletal remains, seeking responsible state government and intact social programs. Caught unprepared, the thin barricade of officers who remained were swept aside like a balanced budget requirement. Observers on the pair of water intake stations south of the bridge, renovated as bases for riverine operations, radioed frantically for help.
The Admiral Riverboat, once slated for demolition, had been resurrected to ferry foster children across the river in the largest evacuation of orphans since Operation Babylift at the end of the Vietnam War. Churning to the scene, blue halogen spotlights and red tracer rounds speared from its sides and swept the throngs that clambered through the bridge's wreckage like kindergärtners on a demented jungle gym. Lucky casualties and unfortunate survivors tumbled into the water, to be swept downstream to uncertain fates. Suicidal human wave attacks from the eastern shore kept the issue in doubt until a pair of B-2 bombers from the Missouri Air National Guard arrived overhead and demolished the bridge with a spectacular display of precision aerial bombardment.
The Federal Government, citing State's Rights, declined to become involved.