House Demolition

I watched the demolition of a house today. It was unequivocally awesome.

Two WVU students were sent to the hospital recently when the roof on which they were sitting collapsed. This focused a bunch of attention on the state of off-campus student housing, and as a result property inspectors are out in force; fines are being levied, and a few houses have even been condemned.

I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I walked across town this afternoon; my brain was full with stress from multiple looming projects at school, and I was in a pretty rotten and introspective mood because of it. Imagine my surprise, then, to wake up from my introversion to the sound of crashing masonry: just across the street, barely 50 feet away, a massive excavator was tearing a house apart. I walked a little further until I could find a good perch, then just watched, for almost an hour.

The first thing that struck me was the size and power of the machine they were using. I noted its model number and looked it up afterward, and what I was watching was actually a Kobelco 235SR LC Short Radius Hydraulic Excavator. You can find lots of information about it here, but what really amazed me as I was looking at it was the sheer power of the thing, especially the arm. This is what the arm did (under the skill of an obviously skilled and experienced driver): first it gripped a wall (using an opposable thumblike attachment attached to the bucket head), and then ripped it from the rest of the house. Then, the bucket obliterated everything (floors, rooms) behind where the wall was. Then, the operator used the bucket to tamp down the just-entropied materials into a ramp. Then the excavator drove onto the newly created excavator-roadway, and just by mashing the arm into the ground, raised the front of the excavator off the ground, allowing it to turn in place and start all over again.

23,200, ladies and gentlemen. From the Kobelco website, that’s the digging force, in pounds, of this arm. This means that when the arm pushes on something, it pushes on it with a force of over 11 tons. Just watching it work, it was obvious the excavator could easily flip itself over just using the downward force of the arm.

By the time I got there (at around 4:30) half the house was gone. I took these first two pictures (mmm…grainy PDA photos) at around 5 PM:


Closeup of an excavator

By 5:30, it looked like this.

Demolished house

Absolutely amazing. It was like watching my childhood Tonka truck dreams come to life. It was so cool I stayed until the house was complete rubble. A couple of other people stayed for a few minutes, but no one else stayed as long as I did. Lightweights.

The only thing that marred the whole experience was that I kept wondering if the police would stop by and tell me to move along, because even watching a public event these days feels like the kind of thing that can put one on an FBI watch list. I realize that there must be a balance between freedom and security, but the pendulum has swung too far. Hopefully it’ll swing back soon.

A Good Day

This is the middle of my sixth year at WVU. Counting summers, this starts my 14th semester. This day, right now, is probably the best first day of classes I’ve ever had.

I woke up early and worked for hours on my website, and enjoyed every minute of it. Then I packed my lunch (which I usually don’t do, which annoys me, because fast food is more expensive), and left early enough that I could just walk around the MountainLair (WVU’s student union) grab the student newspaper, and watch students on their very first day of college ever.

I was five minutes early for class, and once it started, I realized I think I’m going to like the subject matter and professor. After class, I took a nice nap, started organizing all of my scanned pictures (a task I’d been putting off for weeks) then headed down to the Rec Center (WVU’s gym). Though the spinning class I wanted wasn’t offered today (and I forgot that was the case), I still gave myself a nice hard workout on one of the Center’s elliptical machines.

After that, I headed back to the ‘Lair. When I first started at WVU, the tradition after the first day of classes was the Block Party. Thousands of students (and many others, as time went on and its fame grew), converged on Grant Avenue in Sunnyside, and tore the place apart; couches burned, fights broke out, but people had fun. When I was in undergrad (mid 1990’s): the party finally got crazy enough that someone was shot (stabbings, sadly, were already a relatively common occurrence). As news helicopters from 90 miles away (based out of Pittsburgh) filmed the crowds and fires from overhead, and the news of the violence reached the University, it was decided that the Block Party would be permanently shut down.

These days, during the first week of school, anyone who’s even on their porch in Sunnyside is asked to go inside, and no loitering in the area is allowed. In an effort to lure students to something a bit less dangerous when school starts, Fall Fest was instituted: the Lair stays open late, WVU brings in live bands, and no one gets shot. Or stabbed. Or (to the immense relief of the University) filmed as part of a “Look at those crazy WVU students” story that goes national.

It’s FallFest right now. I’m now sitting in the middle of the Lair, surrounded by students, probably most of whom are freshmen. It’s been raining and thunderstorming all day, and the live bands were rained out, so they’re all in here. 1000 people? 2000 people? It’s difficult to say. But they’re all talking, and laughing, and having fun.

And almost therefore by proxy, so am I.

A great ending, for a great day.