First-years went up; the tower came down


Photo credit: Henry Pratt

A portion of the exterior of the Trinity Tower fell to the ground Tuesday evening as first-year students ascended the tower to shake the president’s hand, leading to the evacuation of the area due to safety concerns.

According to Jim Baker, director of facilities services, the damage was caused by years of exposure to the elements. The rebar that serves as the skeleton of the tower expands as it oxidizes. This expansion led to a piece of parging, a cosmetic coating applied to the exterior of concrete work, falling from the landing five stories from the top of the tower.

“No structural elements were involved, just cosmetic. This was probably from the vibration of the stomping from people climbing,” Baker said.

Esther Kim, assistant director for orientation programs, heard the rubble fall and called off the event after conferring with TUPD.

“Due to the safety and security of everyone, as there were students not only around the tower but in the tower, we had to shut it down immediately. Luckily, no one got hurt,” Kim said.

First-year Cade Blalock was standing near the base of the tower when the rubble fell.

“We had stopped and then all the sudden we heard this loud noise and we turned around and then the dust was still coming up, and a brick had just fallen all the way down,” Blalock said. “It was pretty big. It was broken up and there was still chunks that were probably the size of my hand, so it was pretty freaky that it happened.”

First-year Nia Clements was one of approximately 150–175 students who were unable to climb the tower.

“I think that safety is like the most important thing, although I think it would be nice if we would be able to do it another day because a lot of people were really looking forward to doing it. But I’m not mad about it because, I mean, if it’s a safety issue then that’s what’s most important,” Clements said.

Kim will await the go-ahead from facilities services once the tower is deemed safe to reschedule the event.

“Based on what [facilities services] say and what they find, then hopefully our goal is to reschedule this for the next couple weeks, because students were not able to climb the tower or were halfway up when we had to evacuate them, so obviously we want them to be able to have that experience as a new student at Trinity,” Kim said.