Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 47

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Does it make any sense to grieve for a building? Or a city? I don’t know.

A little past 10:00am today there was a gas explosion in downtown Durham. A worker nicked a line while drilling holes for new internet cables. At least that’s the current story.

Honestly, it’s a mess. The mayor says they don’t really know all the details. The fire chief is still fighting the fire. The explosion was sudden and violent and it ripped a whole row of old buildings. One person died. 17 more are in the hospital.

Like any disaster, I’m concerned for the people. Human lives are worth more than a bunch of bricks. If I’m being honest, though, it’s the overhead pictures of downtown Durham smoldering that really get to me.

Cities are special. They take on a soul, the old buildings especially. A thousand people passing the same facade for fifty years imprints a bit of their emotions on the structure. Homes for our old ghosts.

The building that shattered was around the corner from a tex-mex place where I’d meet my parents when they came to visit me at college. More recently, I drove down that road on the way to meet a date at Fullsteam. I remember looking at the building – which had offices on top and a coffee shop on the bottom – and thinking ‘who would ever go here?’ It had that dangerous combination of being both too close and too far from everything else.

Gone now.

Of course, they’ll build it back up. They’ll check the lines this time to make sure none are too exposed. They’ll build a new building like they’re already doing all over the city. They’ll make something flashy, fresh, maybe even nice. But the memories that had taken residence in the old bricks are truly gone – melted glaciers.

Again, the most important thing is the human tragedy. I feel for the loss, wish them quick recoveries. But I don’t know those people. I did know the building.

Novel Count: 37,208

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

I think one of the primary goals of a feminist landscape architecture would be to work toward a public landscape in which we can roam the streets at midnight, in which every square is available for Virginia Woolf to make up her novels.

Rebecca Solnit


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