Last night I saw something interesting.
As I walked home in the dark from work at around 9:30 p.m., I looked up the road about a block as I often do toward Wefald Hall. K-State’s newest residence hall, it remains under construction, with two cranes, one of them taller than each of the surrounding residence halls nearby.
The bigger of the two is yellow, and last night, it was illuminated better than normal.
I looked up toward what was, for the moment, the top floor. I saw the steel columns rise vertically above it. I also, however, saw shadows moving.
As I got a little closer to the street corner, I realized the shadows I saw were the men of the construction site. They were hard at work with the big yellow crane. The crane, with its cockpit illuminated brilliantly beneath a dark sky high above the men, lowered a container of concrete toward them.
Their hardhats reflected the floodlights of it, like truck headlights illuminating the site of a bonfire. They had to have been six or seven or eight floors up. I forgot to count, but they were way up there.
What I found most interesting, however, was that they were there at all.
There they were putting in the sweat, pouring concrete at 10 p.m. on a 40 degree or so Thursday night. Concrete laying is inherently dirty, and heights are, for most of us, inherently terrifying. Yet there they were, getting their work in like a college senior preparing for the NFL combine.
I get it, they’re paid. I get it, their company made the bid probably years ago, then extended them jobs contingent on their willingness to do this specific kind of work. My father works in construction, has all his life. We have talked often about how this all works.
But I have also worked late, labor-intensive shifts. I have been in the dirty and the sand and the wind, and maybe just once the rain, building sleeping tents or office tents or running cable late into the night.
I know how annoying labor like that can be.
So as I walked home, I saw the beauty in what they were doing. On a cold Thursday night, with most of Manhattan preparing for one of the biggest party days of the year, these men were seven stories up, laying the foundation of a floor where memories will be built for decades. They were up putting in the midnight hours to complete a building that will stand in a spot where there was once just a parking lot. One that will give birth to history in the friendships that take place there. Proposals will happen one day because two people met each other there, or were introduced there. Some of the best physicists and engineers and musicians and writers of all human history will have done their midnight studying there, and grown into adults walking just a few thin pieces of linoleum above the concrete floor they were laying.
Here’s a shoutout to the guys whose names will never be known by history, but who laid the foundations of it.