farewell to Law Barracks and the Class of 2005
The jaws of the wrecking crane clamped down on the top of the building. Below the large crowd of cadets stood with their necks craned toward the overcast sky - a strange silence had descended on them. They watched with awe as the first bits of the building crumbled four stories to the ground. As the chunks of debris and the gaping hole in the front of the building got bigger, the low rumble in the crowd turned to raucous cheers.
The demolition of Law Barracks was finally under way and its destruction has struck a chord with many.
"It is difficult for me to express the magnitude of the special spot that Law Barracks will always hold in my heart," said Regimental Recruiting Officer Cadet Maj. Jon Paris.
"To most, it was just a building, and an old one at that," he said. "To me, and to my family of classmates, it was home."
Now six weeks after the demolition began and just days before the Class of 2005 says goodbye to their regimented days as cadets, all that remains of Law Barracks is the rubble. The demolition and eventual rebuilding of Law Barracks culminates a years-long project to rebuild the college's cadet housing. It began in the mid 1990s with the new construction of Watts Barracks. That was followed in 1999 with the opening of a new Murray Barracks and in 2004 with the reopening of the rebuilt Padgett-Thomas Barracks. No decision has been made about what will happen to Stevens Barracks (old No. 4 barracks).
definitely an emotional issue for all those cadets having resided in the
battalion," said Cadet Maj. Adam Paul, 2nd Battalion academic officer.
"I feel sort of attached in that it was, of course, my home
sorry to see it go but
I suppose it's about that time for it to go."
Law Barracks opened in 1939. According to news reports of the day, cadets and faculty and staff were excited about the new building, particularly the fact that it had hot and cold running water. Times have changed. Sixty-six years later, cadets are excited to be getting air conditioning and improved Internet access. Many, however, are sad to see the old No. 3 Barracks go.
"It is personal," said Third Battalion Commander Cadet Lt. Col. Olivia Perry-Smith. "Most of the guys that I stand there and watch the demolition with feel the same way. For those of us who are watching our rooms being torn apart, we think of all the memories that are being taken down, and the fact that we'll never again be able to walk the galleries of old third. It was our home."
For many cadets, a bit of history is being lost in the destruction of demolition.
"My sophomore year roommate's dad told us the exact spot where he was in Law when they announced that President Kennedy was killed," said Cadet Master Sgt. Kristina Romero, 3rd Battalion Supply NCO. "When you think about the generations of cadets who occupied the barracks, it's pretty neat."
Human Affairs Officer Cadet Harris Ligon said the floors were well worn from cadets of years gone by. And while the building itself will soon be gone, replaced with a modern look-a-like, the memories cadets forged there will remain for years to come.
"I built up a friendship with my classmates that I will always have," said Cadet Maj. Matthew Frye, regimental athletic officer. "True, our home is being town down and we are all sad when we see its crumbling walls, but the memories that we have shared in it will live on forever."
Cadet Sgt. Erich Peschel, Mike Company recruiting sergeant and a squad leader, swears a Mike Company room in Law Barracks is haunted and wonders whether the ghost will move into the new barracks.
"The story that the upperclass told us when we were knobs is (that) one time when the knobs were packing it in, they pushed back and a kid broke through the window. The kid fell to his death and ever since the room has been haunted," Peschel said.
Now, there have been no reports of a cadet falling from a barracks window, but cadets are convinced that is who haunts the barracks.
"The water and lights would be messed with when people were sitting at their desk or lying in their bed," Peschel said. "Also, the door unlatched and flung open one time, so just playing along, one of my classmates said, "knock it off." And the door flung closed again."
Law Barracks is named for Evander M. Law, Class of 1856, a major general in the Confederate Army. He was instrumental in establishing the Florida educational system after the Civil War.
"Living in Law Barracks was a link to the past and old traditions," Cadet Chris Nastal said. "Known as the MILK (for the four companies that it housed) Barracks, we all worked together and kept her clean and were proud to be a part of what housed cadets since 1939. It will be greatly missed.
Construction on the new barracks is expected to be complete in late 2006 or early 2007. The $23 million cost is being paid for with institution revenue bonds and barracks account reserves.
"Law was just a special place," said Cadet Paris. "It was like no other battalion in the Corps. Some looked at it as old. Others saw it as unsafe. Many called it ugly. To us, it was the center of our lives. We forged our indestructible bonds within its walls during knob year, and later, we made memories as both leaders and followers that will last us a lifetime."