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Jul
2011
20

WaPo Spotlights Ironworker Apprentice Who Built a Bridge to a New Life Through Labor



The Washington Post recently told the story of Darren Carroll, an Ironworker apprentice, and his tenacity to re-enter the work force after an injury sidelined him for an extended period of time. The article describes how Carroll found an opportunity to work on a local bridge project at a Community Outreach center and dedicated himself to take advantage of it. He is now back in financial shape, taking care of his family, and proud of the work he is doing. He can even lend some money to people who are currently in the position he found himself in not too long ago. The article tells about a recent interaction with a young girl in his neighborhood:

On a recent afternoon, Carroll stood in front of his apartment building after a day shift.

A young girl, the daughter of a neighborhood friend, approached and handed him a wad of cash.

“Daddy says, ‘Thank you for this,’ ” the girl said.

It was the repayment of a loan that Carroll had given the girl’s unemployed father a few months back. Loaning money is a gesture Carroll sometimes offers to friends in the neighborhood.

“Fact is, I couldn’t help anybody before — my family, nobody,” he said. “At least now I can say, ‘Here’s this little bit of money. Take care of yourself.’ ”

Carroll, who had to work jobs as a part-time barber, temporary Wal-Mart stocker, and babysitter to stay afloat during the tough times, has had his life transformed by the work he is now doing. He is being rewarded for his relentless and impassioned desire to do it well. He works on the bridge project during the day and has enrolled in training classes to complete an apprenticeship program. When the apprenticeship ends he will be making $55 an hour.

Here’s where the story hits me the most on a personal level. Anyone who has ever had to sell a prized possession to get rent money knows the depressing effect it has on your soul. You’re giving up on your dreams and passions to stay another month in your residence. It is heart-breaking. Carroll’s passion was music and he had to sell his equipment to stay afloat.

Keeping an open mind meant pawning some of the family’s most sentimental belongings. Carroll’s music equipment — keyboard, microphones, speakers and a digital recorder — was the hardest to let go.

Carroll, who helps produce music for neighborhood musicians and his mother’s church, said he had worked hard to assemble his mini studio over several years.

Logan admits that she pressed Carroll to sell some of his possessions to help make ends meet, creating some tense moments.

“I was fussing . . . it was really hard,” said Logan. The couple have been together since 2001. “I just felt like, ‘You’ve gotta think outside of the box.’ He probably cried and didn’t let me see . . . but I was determined that we were going to do better.”

It worked. They stayed afloat. His fiancée Logan graduated with an Associate’s degree and Darren found meaningful work. They are not lounging leisurely, but they no longer have the fear of drowning, and after all isn’t part of the American Dream to live without fear?

The American Dream has been declared to be dead by many writers over the past half-century. Carroll’s story is proof that it is still alive for those who can find faith in it. Apprenticeship, the spirit of which is kept alive by the unionized construction trades, remains one of the bedrocks of the American Dream and allows men like Carroll to find true meaning, and fair wages, in their work.

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One Comment on “WaPo Spotlights Ironworker Apprentice Who Built a Bridge to a New Life Through Labor”

  1. And Mr. Carroll didn’t go on TV whining and begging the public for cash when he got hurt on the job, LIKE EVERY COP DOES when they get hurt.

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an ironworker’s job is TWICE as dangerous as a cop’s.
    And the cops get better benefits.

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