With every pile of rubble scooped up, and every slice of mangled metal yanked off, Eddie Holmes feels a piece of his past is being torn away, too.
"It's definitely a sad time. It really is," says Eddie Holmes.
Holmes' school, Harper McCaughan, is coming down piece by piece. The hurricane-battered building, means a lot to Holmes. It was where he went to school, began his teaching career, and since 1999, Holmes has been its principal.
"As a matter of fact, the first project was putting this metal roof that I'm seeing coming down right now," Holmes says. "So yeah, there's a lot of memories here for sure. Beyond my wildest dreams, I never dreamed of anything like this happening."
"I grew up until I was six, right across from this school," says Long Beach Superintendent Carrolyn Hamilton.
Hamilton has one of the strongest ties to Harper McCaughan Elementary. It was where she learned, played, and worked.
"It's just a wonderful place, and a beautiful campus," says Hamilton. "I broke my arm on an oak tree here in first grade when I fell."
Despite a sense of sadness as the memories were hauled away, there was also a sense of relief.
"It's a little bit better feeling for me to see that it's being cleaned up, and not see the debris from the storm inside," says Holmes. "It's definitely different, but it is on the way to some recovery I think."
"Finally, it's being torn down," says Hamilton. "While you hate to see that happen, nothing else can move forward until this happens."
In less than 60 days, the entire building will be gone, including the slab. The district doesn't know yet if a new Harper McCaughan will go up on the same site. If the school doesn't come back, one thing's for sure, the property will continue to be used for educational purposes.
"It will be used in some way by the district," says Hamilton. "I want it to be used by our children and our citizens."
Salvage Nine of Long Beach has been hired to tear down the school. FEMA is paying more than $100,000 for the demolition. The work is supposed to wrap up in less than two months.