I live above 32nd street, in an apartment that overlooks a several acre lot where Dawson Construction is building an office facility for Western Washington University. I have grown accustomed to the early morning sounds of bulldozers, grating metal, and trucks beeping as they back up. But this morning, an unusual sound caught my attention around 7:30 am. It was a loud, slow, and reverberating Craaack. Then a pause, then another loud Craaack. I was still in bed, but the noise was so eerie that I got up and shuffled into the living room to peer out the blinds. Through the slats I saw a small yellow steam shovel ramming itself against a 30-foot-or-so tree on the edge of the sight. The tree was cracking open and falling over slowly, stubbornly, its roots still grasping the earth. Beside it was the next victim, another 30-foot-or-so tree with hardly any leaves on it. It must have already been sick. But, closer to me, on the furthest edge of the lot, a full acre from the three story building that had already been constructed, there was a third tree, at least 40-feet tall, with long healthy branches and lots of green leaves.
For the record, the trees were minding their own business when the travesty occurred.
The steam shovel backed up, took aim, and slammed into the first tree again. I yanked the blinds all the way up and slapped my hand on the glass. “What are you doing?” I said out loud. No one could hear me, off course. I was about 50 yards away and across the street.
I watched in horror as the steam shovel bludgeoned the tree over and over with its shovel. “No!” I yelled through the glass. “Stop! What are you doing?” But the shovel just backed up, dug with iron claws at the tree’s roots, bit into them and ripped them up. My stomach turned as the machine backed up, took aim and slammed into the tree again. Three gut-wrentching cracks later, the tree was leveled.
I wanted to do something, besides standing there slapping my hand on the glass and crying out, but I couldn’t take my eyes off what was happening. The bulldozer backed up, rolled over to the second tree and started hacking at the roots.
Should I run across the street in my pajamas and throw myself in front of the tree? I wondered. No, maybe I should quickly get dressed and then run over. I had to do something. I could call someone � like the police or� scanning the site I saw a truck trailer with the word DAWSON in short caps. The second tree was already beginning to lean. If I was going to save it, I had to act fast. I ran to the kitchen cabinet and grabbed the phone book. “D-D-D-D,” I said aloud. My hands were shaking as I scanned the columns. “Okay, D-A� D-A� D-A-W� Where is it!” I already knew I was going to cry. I found the number, ran for the phone and dialed. As an automated voice on the other end of the line went through a list of extensions, I watched the second tree fall over. Now the shovel was backing up to begin its assault on the third, healthiest tree.
“Nooo!” I screamed hitting the glass with the flat part of my fist this time. Finally, the receptionist picked up. “I need to talk to the person in charge of the construction site on 32nd street,” I said.
“Do you want a manager on site or here in the office?”
The shovel started scraping at the roots of the healthy tree. “Does the manager on site have a cell phone?”
“No, the phone is in the trailer on site.”
“Then I’ll talk with the person in your office.”
“And you’re with�?”
“I’m with myself,” I said.
“Oh� just a moment, please.”
“Hello, this is —________,” I could tell the receptionist had alerted this male voice that there was a hysterical woman on line two.
“Hi, I live across from the 32nd Street construction site for Western and I am standing here watching one of your guys tear down three trees with a steam shovel. Is that absolutely necessary?”
“Hmmm,” he said. “I don’t think we’re taking down any trees� you must have the wrong site.”
“I’m looking out the window at a trailer that says DAWSON in big letters and I’m telling you a guy in a steam shovel is pushing over a perfectly healthy tree as we speak. I’m standing here watching him do it. There can’t possibly be a good reason for that.”
“Hmmm. Exactly how big is this tree?”
“It’s at least thirty feet tall and he’s pushing it over with a F—ing bulldozer.” It was a steam shovel, but I was too upset to care. The healthy tree started going over.
“Alright,” he said, as though he finally believed me. The tree was frozen in mid fall. What’s your name?”
Who cares, I thought. It’s too late. “Christina Katz,” I said trying hard not to cry. With every last ounce of indignation I could muster I said. “There are only two more healthy trees left on the whole lot and I want to be able to look out my window and see them in the morning. Is that too much to ask?”
“Okay,” he said softly. Uh, what’s your phone number? You sound like you could use a call back.”
I managed to give him my number without losing it. I didn’t expect him to call me and he never did.
The steam shovel dragged the fallen trees into a pile. Then it started hacking at them while they were lying on the ground. I couldn’t stand it any more, I went into the bedroom and collapsed into a pile of tears. I haven’t cried that hard since my dog died. When I went back to the window a few minutes later someone who looked like a foreman was running over to the steam shovel operator. He shouted something and then the steam shovel operator resumed hacking at the trees.
I wondered if the trees were dead yet. Then maybe they wouldn’t feel anything, but I doubted it. Trees aren’t like people. They’re more patient. They live more slowly and they die more slowly. That’s why we need to keep them around. That’s why we need to just let them be.
Today, I’m proud to report that I can look out my window in the morning and see two trees, still standing.
Contributed by Christina Katz, Bellingham, WA