Bringing Down the House

The Guillaume home was levelled (courtesy of CBS 2)

“When a house is being built which is to be made as strong as possible, the building takes place in fine weather and in calm, so that nothing may hinder the structure from acquiring the needed solidity.”  – Origen, early Christian theologian & scholar

We build houses to satisfy one of our most basic needs: shelter. Over time, though—and through every twist and turn of life—these structures transform from mere buildings into something much more significant.

They become homes.

No matter how unfair, frustrating or depressing life becomes, people can always return to their “nests,” shut their doors and forget about the world outside.

Until the world outside comes bursting in, that is. And this past week, a number of people experienced this unfortunate turn of events. The first was a family in East Hanover, New Jersey: Sandra Guillaume, her twin 4-year-old daughters and her 7-year-old son.

Tuesday morning, as the young mother and her children were going about their business, they suddenly heard a loud crash and felt the building shudder. Moments later, the house began filling with smoke and the family could feel the heat of a fire nearby. They rushed outside and, thankfully, escaped what came next.

An electrical fire that damaged the house so badly it must now be demolished.

The cause of the fire is reminiscent of the Final Destination movie franchise, given the ridiculous chain of events that led to the blaze. It began with 55-year-old Wayne Whitsitt, a truck driver for N Tassielli Disposal Inc. who told police it was a sneeze that changed his fate that day.

Believe it or not, but Whitsitt’s sneeze caused a water bottle to fall onto the floor at his feet. It rolled and eventually lodged itself behind the brake pedal. Unable to stop, Whitsitt’s truck jumped a curb on Daniel Drive, cruised through the front yards of several neighbors and finally smashed into Guillaume’s rented home.

The crash sparked the electrical fire that eventually burned up the house and the truck. Luckily, Whitsitt only suffered a laceration to the head and, along with the family, should be fine.

Of course, the Guillaumes are now homeless, but who’s counting?

The second and final group of folks whose homes took a beating this week come from Port Angeles, Washington. And by the time this particular “incident” was over, the once tranquil neighborhood looked more like a war zone.

It happened Saturday when 51-year-old Barry Swegle—a “highly agitated” man who had an ongoing property dispute with one of his neighbors, Dan Davis—suddenly snapped and decided to unleash chaos… with a bulldozer.

Aerial video footage shows the bulldozer allegedly used by Barry  Swegle, to go on a rampage that damaged four homes  and cut power to thousands of people.

Swegle used this monster to do serious damage (courtesy of the Associated Press)

Actually, the International Harvester TD-25 isn’t really a bulldozer; it’s actually used more for logging, but that’s not important. What is important is what Swegle did with the machine.

He used it to crash through four of his neighbors’ homes, destroy vehicles, topple a huge electricity pole and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

And to win himself an arrest for malicious mischief, I suppose. Not to mention one hell of a bill to pay.

What first struck me about this story—aside from the fact that a guy just went balls-up crazy—is that Swegle’s neighbors saw it coming. Sure, they didn’t know when he would snap. They just knew it was eventually going to happen.

“We all said one of these days Barry is going to take that dang CAT [TD-25] and he’s going to start tearing up people’s property,” neighbor Barbara Porter said later. “And that’s what he did.”

Which brings us, my friends, to the problem with houses: they are only as safe as the people living within them are lucky or, more importantly, smart. And as much as I hate to say it, I’m not sure living next to a dude with a short fuse and heavy machinery qualifies.

Posted on May 13, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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