In May of 2010, I took my camera for a walk around our off campus apartment complex. The university had just closed it, since it had aged out of usefulness, and over the past few months a construction company has been slowly demolishing it to make way for new athletic fields.
They've gotten pretty far along:
but there's a lot of wreckage:
and a few walls left standing:
I drive past the deconstruction every day on my way home, and it's been interesting to watch the buildings slowly come down. When I took that walk last year I thought about how odd it was to think that within a year or two everything I was seeing would be gone, knocked down and carted away as if it was never there, but it's somehow stranger to witness it happening. Our lives are so often stories of things that are gone, things that we've lost, and places and people that no longer are, but there's something unsettling about watching a place that is become a place that was.
What does it tell us about ourselves?
There are people who gather at demolitions to watch the destruction. Every time I see a news clip about an old Vegas casino coming down (this used to happen with steady regularity before the recession; now I think they just bake and crumble in the sun instead) there was always a glimpse of a crowd pressed up against the police tape, cameras in hand, waiting for the building to implode in on itself and drop out of sight like a twenty-story magic trick. Why were those people there? What did they get out of it? Were they memorializing? Bearing witness? Did they find some sort of value in being one of the last people to see the Stardust, or is it more that they found value in watching it come down? A sense that an icon may fall, but they survived?
I'm not suggesting that our off campus apartments were icons, but, like the Biltmore Tourist Court sign or the Knoxville Art Bears, they are a part of our community's shared history, however small. For the past few weeks, as I've seen more and more of the rubble disappear each night as I drive past, I've felt like someone should at least take note of the process even though I'm not sure why.
Maybe it's just the sense that no one will ever see this again, and someday somebody might want to.