The house finally came down this week.
As I’ve often said, our house has been dead a long time—it just now finally fell down.
This beautiful house in Vista Park drowned in August of last year when floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina filled New Orleans. As if we weren’t already convinced to demolish what remained, a fire did even more damage to the structure a few months later.
We’ve been looking forward to the demolition for several months. When the big day finally came, I had to be at work so my Darling Wife and Precious Daughter had to be witnesses for the family.
The morning started off with a loud rumble as the huge backhoe rolled up our driveway and lined up to start smashing the house from the front left corner. My Darling Wife, who manages to see adventure in everything we do nowadays, asked if she could take a few swipes at the condemned structure herself.
Amazingly, the equipment operator, an amiable fellow with a southern twang, agreed. My Darling Wife, who had never operated any equipment more sophisticated than a passenger vehicle with manual transmission, climbed the tracks of the huge machine and settled into the operator’s seat in the glass-enclosed cab. The operator stood nearby and tutored the novice mother in the fine art of controlling the 30,000-pound-capacity arm.
CRASH! As if she had been doing this for years, my Darling Wife brought the massive claw of the backhoe down on the roof of our house, crashing through the roof and ceiling of the dining room. She took two or three swipes before she handed over the controls—to our Precious Daughter!
Who knew a 10-year-old could operate a track backhoe?
But just as efficiently as her mom had a moment before, and with the help of the operator standing nearby, our Precious Daughter raised and dropped the hammer-like arm of the backhoe down on the house as easily as she may have swatted a bug.
Just another day in the life for us in New Orleans, I suppose.
Once the fun had been had, the professional operator took over and made short order of the heavily damaged house. Working deliberately and methodically, the backhoe was soon crawling on top of a pile of wood and brick as he made his way toward the back of the house.
A train of trucks began to arrive to cart off the debris. For two days, they worked at the smashing and hauling, and when that was done, they started tearing out the slab.
Large chunks of concrete were wrested from the foundation as rebar stretches with the futility of cheese clinging to the pie. The operator carefully piled up the large blocks of manmade rock, then proceeded to break them into more manageable hunks. He did this not with the force of the backhoe, but with good-ole gravity. Grasping one of the blocks in the jaw of the machine, he raised it high into the air—perhaps 20 feet—and dropped it on top of the other pieces. It slammed and spattered flakes of concrete with a deep “Thud!”
When I arrived home that first evening, I was smitten with sadness at the sight of a heap of rubble where my house had stood that morning. Sure, this is what we wanted, what we had been planning and looking forward to for some time. But it was odd and a bit unsettling to look into a pile of debris and recognize things that were once cherished possessions. Books that had belonged to my Precious Daughter, pots and some dishes, throw pillows, even an old vinyl single by “The Rock-a-Byes,” a local band that is all but forgotten.
I remind myself of the adage, “You have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet.” I remind myself that this is the sound and sight of progress in New Orleans today. I remind myself that this house, as wonderful as it was, was just a shelter from the elements.
Later, I feel better sitting in the trailer, listening to my Precious Daughter singing to her favorite songs on the radio. As fond as I was of those things we lost, what is most important to us remains.