Sunday, April 11, 2010

of implosions past and present

PREFACE: Texas Stadium, longtime home of the Dallas Cowboys, was imploded today. Seeing the footage reminded me of the implosion ten years ago of the Kingdome in Seattle, an event I witnessed firsthand. I'd written something about it at that time for the old AOL No Depression board, and, as it happens, saved it to my hard-drive. Dug it up just now and figured it was maybe worth a rerun a decade later....


By Peter Blackstock
March 26, 2000

the kingdome is on my car.

well, a thin layer of it, anyway. my trusty ol' datsun was parked a few blocks away from the hulking megalith when it went tumbling down at precisely 8:30 this morning.

yesterday i spent half an hour examining ferry schedules and even going down to the ferry dock to try to determine if watching from the water would be a viable option. there were some good land viewing spots scattered about the downtown area, but i suspected they'd all be rather crowded, and besides, something about being out on elliott bay when the dome went down just seemed like the way it should be. (tying in such a historical event with the waters of puget sound sorta reminded me of that day chasing the u.s.s. missouri along the strait of juan de fuca a couple years ago.)

it wasn't an easy feat, though. turned out the only way to do it was to board a 5:10am ferry for bremerton, which is an hourlong trip, and then wait over there for the 7:45am boat, which, if everything went right, would be rounding the bend along west seattle's alki point at just about the right moment to allow a clear view straight ahead into downtown and the dome at demolition time.

so, i dragged myself outta bed at 4:30am and got a parking space right by the ferry terminal; still early enough that even the dome-watching crowds weren't out and about yet. only about 20 people boarded the 5:10am boat to bremerton, but it was a bit more crowded for the return trip, with lotsa bremerton locals coming aboard with the same idea. overall it was less crowded than i'd expected, though; probably about 250 people on a boat that could pretty easily fit over a thousand. which was nice, 'cuz between the upper and lower levels, everyone could find a pretty good spot for an unobstructed view.

sailing back from bremerton, the downtown seattle skyline comes into view first, but you have to get a good bit closer before you can see around alki point to the area just a few blocks south of downtown occupied by the dome and safeco field. it was looking like it was gonna be a close race for awhile, but finally we got into range at about 8:25. ideally we might've been right up close near the ferry dock by 8:30, but the captain had to slow the boat significantly in the final stretch, because, as expected, there were hundreds and hundreds of sailboats and yachts and catamarans and the like crowded into elliott bay awaiting the apocalyptic vision.

the captain obviously had radio or tv access to track the countdown, because right about 8:30 he announced, "ok, 30 seconds to go." (we might've also gotten screwed if the demolition was running just 10-15 minutes behind, 'cuz the ferry would've had to go on up to the dock to stay on schedule; but fortunately everything was running like clockwork.)

first the dome roof seemed to rise a little bit and become blurry; that was all the dust shaking off the top from the initial detonation. within the next five seconds, it all came tumbling down -- sinking, really, the up-curved roof inverting and crashing into what used to be the middle of the ballfield. the giant "boom" took about three or four seconds to reach us out in the water, an interesting sound-effects delay.... it looked like some of the walls fell outward to the north; then i remembered that was planned, 'cuz there was a big parking lot to the north and they decided to use that extra space to their advantage.

the dust clouds hovered high and wide for the remainder of our float into the ferry dock, which took about twice as long as usual as police boats escorted us through the throng of private crafts scattered all over the place within a few hundred yards from the shore. there must've been a slight northerly breeze, 'cuz much of the dust seemed to be drifting up toward downtown, enveloping the once-mighty smith tower, and the surrounding skyscrapers that now dwarf it, amid a smoky gray haze.

once we docked and got off the boat, i decided to walk over as close to the dome as possible (the streets directly around it were closed off). the first thing i noticed as i hit street level and looked up toward the sky was the tiny specks of "snow" falling softly all around. it occurred to me that it was kind of like the kingdome's ashes were being sprinkled over downtown seattle. then i realized, no, it wasn't "like" that -- that's EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS. beautiful.

the closer you got to the dome,the more the dust had collected. most of it had fallen from the air by now, but when cars drove by, you could see streams of it kicking up from behind their spinning wheels. at occidental park, an open square between shops that formed a path directly to the dome, you could see everyone's shoeprints in the layer of dust on the brick walkways.

there wasn't much to see of the dome itself; chain-link fences were positioned far enough back that only a few big boulders of concrete jutting from the old site were visible. it was funny, trying to get a peek at something that *wasn't* there; really the most striking thing about the view from occidental park was that you could now see straight through to safeco field, which previously had been blocked by the dome.... just across the street was the zeitgeist cafe, five floors above which can be found the loft-apartment abode of neko case, who'll be moving soon because that building, too, is scheduled for demolition in the midst of an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new cultural devolution that is consuming this town.

walking back to my car, i came across a bronze sculpture that must be relatively new, because i'd never seen it there before. it was four firefighters, posted as if charging and crawling their way toward a blaze, two of them holding a hose -- pointed, ironically, directly to where the kingdome had always stood, until 30 minutes ago. i eventually realized that the sculpture was a memorial to the four firefighters who died in a blaze at a factory very near the kingdome in 1995. it's strange, though; with their gas-masks on and in full gear, the first thought that comes to mind when you see these four figures could easily be WTO.

when i made it back to my car, i was happy to find it had received the same dusting of kingdome history across its hood and windshield that had coated everything else in the area. most of it blew away on the drive home, but there's still a few traces of it on the trunk hatch, under the wipers, in the rearview mirrors.

the dome is dead, but its remains still linger, all powder and clouds and hazy memory of a lost landmark left to give up the ghost.

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