OPINION: A season for everything, including a time to tear down

Sarnia’s Ben Vanderveen watches as crews demolish the landmark Ferry Dock Hill building on May 12. The building was declared unsafe after record high water levels in the St. Clair River damaged its foundations. Troy Shantz

Sheila Kozmin

Perched in my upper-level corner condominium apartment adjacent to Sarnia’s Ferry Dock Hill, I enjoyed a front row seat to a recent demolition derby.

The former home of the GMSB law firm, with its panoramic window views of the St. Clair River from choice offices occupied by senior staff, soon lay in rubble before being trucked off to landfill and recycling centres.

As a client of one of the legal partners, I had frequently visited his glass-walled office, and admired the magnificent views he enviably enjoyed during his working day. It seemed to me he had the best seat in town.

But then, in 2016, I moved into a high-rise home overlooking that same St. Clair River and felt I had the best seat in town!

Watching the teardown of the once-venerable edifice from my 15th storey vantage point inspired great admiration for the art of industrial deconstruction. I was mesmerized by the skill and dexterity of the heavy equipment operators.

The massive hydraulic excavator, with its arm-like boom, dipper and slotted clamshell grapple, mercilessly ripped down walls like a gigantic dinosaur tearing into prey.

And yet, that same iron Mesozoic reptile could delicately pick out a single choice piece of valuable copper from the rubble heap and daintily set it aside for recycling. The skill with which the operator approached every aspect of the demolition was remarkable. It was a veritable pas de deux of Man and Beast.

I observed how strategic a demolition is. Each step and stage seemed thoughtfully planned for maximum safety and efficiency.

The systematic dumpster-filling and hauling of debris followed each sequential knockdown phase. The operator was particularly adept at removing the riverside walls. His challenge was to prevent any construction materials from falling into the ever-so-close river. Success! I breathed a sigh of relief.

Soon, all that remained of that once bustling professional office building was piles of rubble. And within that rubble lay the memories of the thousands of women and men who had transacted business within its walls.

To Everything There Is a Season and, most notably, “A time to tear down…”  (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

The law offices have relocated to 222 Front Street N. in Sarnia.

Thank you, to the excavating company crew, for providing an entertaining distraction while I remain sheltered-in-place.

Sheila Kozmin is a former educator and a hobbyist writer who enjoys reflecting on issues of community interest.