They all knew this day would come; the signs had been there for years. At first the walls started to change color. After years of various occupants and their habits, stains and various odors had begun mounting the walls. The ceilings went next, weak from the weight of numerous families relying on its sturdy wooden hold to keep them off the ground at night. Of course there were leaks as well, reminding everyone that they weren’t in paradise but that was more bearable than the elements beyond the walls. The lighting had never been the best, and as time went on, some rooms never saw the light of day…or night. Yet, to a newborn, foreign and sensitive to the world, it was a familiar womb that suited them well. The stairs began to give way, nearly caving in, but hardworking hands and desperate fathers patched them back together every time. See, from a distance these flaws seemed like little fixer-uppers. Truth be told they were, but for how long? How long can one building be home to hundreds? How long can paper thin walls keep generations from bleeding into one another? How long can a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment house a family of five? As long as it has to be. This building was more than just another run down apartment building. It was a sanctuary after a long night’s work sweating for tips. It was the birthplace of all five grandchildren and the final resting place of grandpa. It was a haven.
Over the months leading up to demo day every room, hallway, and stairway had been cleared out. Families kissed their beloved home goodbye and were forced to seek refuge elsewhere. For a while you could hear only the rats scurrying within the walls but even they had a sense of what was to come and left, leaving it deserted. A few weeks prior to this day you'd catch people passing by and stop to reminisce about their time spent within those walls. The first steps the baby took. That time the roof caved in and gave everyone a skylight. The last birthday party for mom before she moved on. The memories that, no matter how much you cleared out that building, the rooms would still be full of laughter, sadness, togetherness and even a bit of contempt. They were all trapped within those walls, unable to escape fate.
On that fateful day the wrecking ball arrived with a band of dump trucks, bulldozers and excavators. They made the ground shudder and quake as they plowed down the street up to the old apartment building. Black smoke puffed into the air and the sound of heavy machinery rumbled in the air. A generously sized crowd had formed on the other side of the street, blocked off by construction barricades . A few small children clung to their parents in fear of the “monster trucks” that hurt their ears and made them cough. To them, the wrecking ball and bulldozers were objects of curiosity and amazement; they hadn’t yet realized that they were going to tear down and destroy some of their favorite hiding places. To most the crowd consisted of spectators who hadn't seen city demolition up close. From within the crowd the knowing looks, heavy sighs and choked back sobs shared meaning. For them, this was the beginning of the end.
With a motion of their hand a signal was given by what was presumed to be the lead construction worker; it was time for demo. The wrecking ball, once looming and silent, roared to life and began its slow mechanical movement to gain enough inertia. The black ball went whirling through the air like an unstoppable meteor and slammed into the left side of the building. The crowd let out a collective gasp as bricks and wood spewed in every direction. Rooms that once gave shelter to countless families obliterated and reduced to splinters. The children that in the beginning had a glimmer of amazement in their eyes now trembled with fear. The wrecking ball swang back out from the wreckage it just caused unharmed, unaltered. The ball winded back and went swinging again. It bombarded deeper into the fortress with such force that it burst through the other side of the building. Heavy dust and debris began to make the eyes of the strong willed within the crowd well up and pour over. Mother’s squeezed their babies tight, willing all their strength to their legs to keep themselves upright. The final blow that made the remaining standing pillars crumble was aimed at the face of the building rendering it to ruin.People started to clear the area before the dust had even settled, not wanting to face the new reality of what their previous home was turned into.
The bulldozers got to work, gathering all the debris into piles. As the crowd got smaller the piles of ruin grew larger, and what once had been, was no more than a collection of lost memories; a grave of ghosts. One person stayed to see that the deed was done to its completion. This person remained there until the workers went home and the machines went cold. A solemn sigh was all they uttered, a look of poignant melancholy plastered on their features. The time for turning back had come and gone and yet, there was no feeling of cessation about the entire event. The person stared at the piles of rubble, hoping to gain a sense of finality but the only thing there was the rubble. The rubble, empty space…and opportunity. In the presence of the all too recent destruction it seemed wrong to ponder over hopeful thoughts hours after its demise. Almost like a betrayal to the dead memories that lay beneath the debris. However, in spite of the events that had taken place, this person was able to see what could be. A new opportunity with a glimmer of hope. Yes, the old memories would lay to rest within the remains of the original building but, with time, new memories could be made. A new building, a new business, a new park, a new..anything. Like a phoenix rebirthed and rising from its ashes, so could the memories that lay there. Indeed it was the beginning of the end but, perhaps not their end.