Monday, February 18, 2013

Seeing Is Believing

How many times have you said you wouldn’t believe something unless you saw it with you own eyes…especially in this day and age of photo manipulation!

And how many times have you unwittingly documented something with your camera that got someone else out of a fix…because they were able to see it though your eyes?!

Here’s how it happened:

Last April, almost a year ago, demolition began on the two-story apartment buildings on two sides of our senior complex here in the Netherlands.  By December it was all knocked down, leveled, kaput…with nothing left but the dirt to walk on.

First, bricks were knocked out to release the bats.  Then the hazmat suits arrived, clearing out any traces of asbestos lurking inside the 50-year-old structures.  [We who watched just feet away wondered if we, too, should have been insulated?]

When the salvage crews arrived to tear off the roof tiles, everything broke down to a science.  What to keep and what to toss became a methodical, poetic flow.  Leave it to the Dutch, I always say.  They know what they’re doing.

As I nosed around with the camera, I eventually met Hoomer, the foreman.  After introductions, he kindly asked if I’d send him my photos, which I did through my blog posts.  And that started a long camaraderie throughout the next months as each phase of the demolition ended. 

Hoomer operated the steam shovel that picked up building pieces like toothpicks.  It was a game to him, leaving no brick unturned.  If he could rescue a window in its frame or an entire staircase, he’d treat it with kid gloves, placing it gently in the salvage truck.

Once nothing remained but rubble, the rock crusher came in to grind cement into gravel.  It would become the foundation of roadways here in the Netherlands, Hoomer said.  Nothing would go to waste.

By then it was December.  The project was finally over and done with…I thought. 


Now was the time to shore up the land, so to speak…which had been the problem to begin with.  The buildings had been torn down [way too young at 50 years!] because the land below sea level was collecting too much water, messing up the sewer and drainage systems.  [Chalk it up to global warming, I say, because we know the Dutch weren’t dumb 50 years ago.  They know how to pump out water!]

Which is where the unwitting part comes in. 

Truckload after truckload of dirt started arriving.  4234 cubic meters of dirt, to be exact.  At 16 cubic meters per truckload, do the math:  265 truckloads!

So out came the camera again to document the real last phase of the work.  Now, PAY ATTENTION. 
First, worteldoek (root-control tarps) were spread out on the ground before the dirt was dumped on top.  Until new apartments could be rebuilt (once the economy righted itself), grass would grow…without weeds or roots popping through.

However, when we bumped into Hoomer during last-minute sidewalk repair and cleanup in January, he asked if by chance I had taken any pictures of the root tarps being laid.  The city’s environmental agency had received his bill but wasn’t convinced he had done it, wanting proof by digging through the dirt to see it with their own eyes.

Ironically, those were the only images of the entire project I had not yet processed/posted.  Once I sent them to him, he wrote back to say I had saved his ass day! 

You know what they say:  the camera never lies.  And some things cannot be manipulated!  Seeing is believing, even if it’s 2 or 3 persons removed.

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