"All these are my friends. All these are my friends," said Larry Westbrook, as he looked into the crowd of former residents and employees of the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
It was part homecoming and part family reunion along Anniston Avenue Thursday morning. Many held cameras while others proudly wore military hats. They came to bid a building farewell.
"Well, we're looking forward to it coming down, so we can get one built back up so we can come back down here again," said former resident Dick Chitwood.
Former residents and employees awaited the implosion with somewhat heavy hearts.
"Worked in the resident affairs office for 11 years and loved it. Great atmosphere," said Terry James, "Very many good memories. A whole lot."
Karey Garrett was among the former employees who awaited the tower to come down.
"Enjoyed every day. Loved it. I had to be to work at seven, but I was always there at five thirty every morning," he said.
A siren signaled three minutes. Three minutes until former resident Bill Parker pushes the button to make it happen.
"Kind of a bittersweet, You hate to see it come down, but if it don't come down, the new one can't go up," said Parker.
Then came the countdown: three, two, one!
A series of concussions shook the ground as the 11 story tower began its tumble. In a matter of moments, a cloud of dust, a small mountain of rubble and a stubborn elevator shaft that simply refused to fall was all that remained.
"It's not going to give up the ghost yet," joked one of the veterans in the viewing crowd.
"Yeah, it's bittersweet," said Chitwood, "But we need it coming. We need closure to get back to business."
Cleaning the rubble comes next. Construction on the new retirement home begins the first of next year. The demolition contractor says that stubborn elevator shaft will simply be knocked over with a crane.
Yates construction was awarded the $188,000,000 contract to build the new retirement home. The project is scheduled to be finished by the summer of 2010.