Baldwin Tower is imploded

Grant Hospital's Baldwin Tower (before implosion)

Grant Hospital’s Baldwin Tower (before implosion)

Even though I hate getting up early at weekends, I decided to drag myself out of bed so I could watch Baldwin Tower be imploded this morning.

My youthful pal A.J. and I biked up to the top story of the giant parking ramp on Capital Street. (It takes up an entire quarter-block and it’s about twelve stories tall. Quite a building itself.) There were about eighty people on the top floor of the garage with us, including two policemen with their cars.

A number of dorks with Yashica cameras showed up and attempted to set up their equipment in varying configurations.

It was a nice day, a little humid, and it was early enough that the sun slanted through the building in a pleasing way. You could see where the glass in certain parts of the stairwell had been cut away—afterward I read these were the floors with the explosives. The antennae on the roof seemed to waver lazily, maybe due to the humidity. I was surprised no one had taken those. Our view was great—because we were northwest of the building and it had been built diagonally to the street, we could see the entire building square on, almost down to the bottom.

Then, at ten seconds after nine, BANG BANG BANG BANG. The glass heaved and flexed, but didn’t seem to shatter. I saw the building turn red very briefly—I don’t know if this was explosives or some trick of the sun—and then it quickly fell into itself. It was like the building were a cereal box being crushed by a giant foot. Left to right, cell by cell, the windows and floors dumped down, down, like a good game of Connect Four when you pull the lever and all the checkers come clattering out the bottom of the game.

A cheer went up from the assembled crowd. The cameramen complained that it didn’t take the twelve seconds they were promised and they’d had no time to prepare. A huge cloud of dust more than twice the height of the building rushed up, nearly enveloping some people who’d somehow sneaked onto the roof of the neighboring building. The cloud slowly drifted north. (More than five minutes later, you could barely see Columbus State from where we were. It was a great deal of dust and who knows what was in it.)

I watched the cloud for some time. I thought about the insurance implications. I thought about how it’s sad to see any building go, even one that was apparently unloved enough to be pulled down.

What is it in human nature that brought all of us there on that early morning? A.J. said I just like destruction, but I’m not sure (I replied I would also come to watch a building get built in twelve seconds). Although there was indeed a cheer from the crowd, I was vaguely discomforted by hearing those bangs and seeing that thing fall on itself. It has been hard to think about any building imploding in a long time. And my conservative nature wants things to stay the same, not to die or to be destroyed. Maybe I needed to stand by and watch destruction in honor of creation itself. It’s futility, but I want there to be permanence in life.

Eventually, the dust dissipated, but I didn’t care to watch it settle completely. We biked down through the garage and headed away.

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