Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Gawkers gathered to gaze at a gigantic “goof” of an implosion attempt gone bad. Thus was the origin of the “leaning tower of Dallas.”


Dr. Don Newbury

The demolition company’s failed effort to take down an 11-story office tower could make Lloyd D. Nabors Demolition shift gears into construction rather than destruction. The former Affiliated Computer Services building was expected to be 100 percent imploded on February 16.

The building’s core didn’t get the memo, however. It was bowed, but not broken, leaning greatly for days, then weeks, as additional efforts wrought little.

Without Chamber of Commerce gimmickry or other contrived efforts, the project–expected to be short-lived–took on a life of its own. TV and newspaper folks “camped out,” and soon there were enough sidebars to build a good-sized jail.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to ignite a firestorm. Parking became problematic and traffic issues abounded as curiosity-seekers sought to see the, uh, “site.” There was nearly as much conversation in the Metroplex about the “leaning tower of Dallas” as there was about the coronavirus.

It would not have been surprising to see onlookers wearing masks to avoid getting sick, and demolition people wearing sacks to avoid being identified. Thousands of photographs have been made, most TV newscasts have carried “progress” reports and PR people have had field days. The remaining south wall, mostly intact, became the backdrop for a lighted message hawking Oklahoma’s Choctaw Casino and Resort. “Have better luck with us,” it blared.

It’s pure speculation, but most “gawkers” probably behaved as they might at a bull fight, inwardly cheering for the bull.

Another possibility is that they are inspired by a building refusing to go down, just as they wish they could in a culture where standing tall against the powerful winds of a stormy world pose challenges.

Many of the onlookers–perhaps unable to successfully strike a tent, collapse an umbrella to fit its covering, or fold a map, even on their best days–guffaw at the demolition efforts. They chuckle at the “tap, tap, tapping” as workers try to take the remaining tower down with a wrecking ball weighing a “mere” 5,600 pounds. (Never mind this is the maximum size allowed for the crane being used.) Some “leather lung” said a few dozen woodpeckers might be just as effective.

The tower WILL come down, and may already be reduced to dust. En route, the building’s designer said he thought buildings should be designed to remain sturdy.

I can’t get The Little Engine That Could out of my mind, nor can I avoid thoughts of the three little pigs, and one sorry that he built his home of straw.

The wolf’s “huffing and puffing” couldn’t make shambles of the homes built of sticks and bricks, and, uh, you know the rest.

Nearly everything reminds me of a story. The leaning tower of Dallas will never be as famous as Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa. A brilliant Italian suggested a minor change in the tower, noting that while tourist numbers to the Tower of Pisa fell steadily, visitors in great numbers were visiting “Big Ben” in London. (This is the nickname for the massive bell-striking clock atop the tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, and known as the “king of clocks.”)

The guy suggested that Italian tourism would be bolstered by adding a clock to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

He bragged, “Visitors would not only have the inclination, they’d also have the time.”

I never expected to spend this much time on “leaning.”

Oh, well, artists look for “lean-to’s” to paint, John Wayne depended on “leaning” for effective sauntering on the silver screen, and Professor Anthony Showalter and Reverend Elisha Hoffman gave Christians a classic hymn—“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”–in 1887.

I’ll likely spend the rest of the day singing the verses I remember, and whistling the rest.

Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries to: Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury. 

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