Bonn. The Bundeskanzlerplatz was a viewing point on Sunday for the thousands who came to see the demise of the 1969 Bonn-Center first-hand.
At 11am exactly, as if in slow motion, the edges of the Bonn-Center tipped over sideways and then the centre of the building crumbled. It took exactly nine seconds before thousands of spectators at various viewing points began to applaud. All that remained was a pile of rubble in a white dust cloud. The ground did not vibrate and tremors were not even felt on the Reuter Bridge. An employee of the demolition company AWR was convinced: “There was not one broken pane of glass.”
Not only Bonners were out and about early on Sunday. Marion Siebigteroth and her husband from Sankt Augustin decided to watch from Graf-Stauffenberg-Straße in Kessenich and set up their camping chairs there. Helmut Radlanski from Bad Godesberg also watched from there after finding the spot on Google Earth.
Soundtrack to the demolition: “Another brick in the wall”
But most wanted to get closer and came on foot or by bike. Fathers gave their children piggy-back rides and discussed how thick the dust cloud would be. At the railway crossing on Rheinweg, Conny and Stefan Burkert and their children made themselves comfortable. As well as drinks, they also brought a Bluetooth speaker to play their personal demolition soundtrack: “Another brick in the wall” by Pink Floyd, “Another one bites the dust” by Queen and “The final countdown” by Europe.
Anke and Bernd Scheiff donned hard hats to be on the safe side. “One has to take care of oneself,” they both said. At their demolition party on Eduard-Otto-Straße in Kessenich were bar tables with salmon canapés, cakes, coffee and a keg of Kölsch beer. It did not take before guests drifted in. “I think it’s great how Rhinelanders make an event of something like this,” said Monika Kleinefenn. She was in a good mood, as was Luise Keller who has lived on the street for 46 years and watched the detonation through her old opera glasses. “The building didn’t suffer for long,” said Bernd Scheiff at the end of the short show. Guests at the After-Explosion-Brunch at the Markus Bar agreed. Although they could only see the top storeys of the Bonn-Center through a gap in the houses, they always had a cold Kölsch to hand.
Breakfast for evacuated residents
Residents of houses in a radius of 100 metres from the explosion area had to get up early. Employees from the Public Order Office rang the doorbells of seven entrance doors at around 8am and made sure everyone left their apartment. The investor Art-Invest made up for the inconvenience with breakfast in the café of the nearby art museum. Around 50 residents took up their offer.
Well over a thousand people gathered at the corner of Rheinweg. A couple of brave young men made themselves comfortable on tree branches. Right at the front of the blockade, Bent (7) and his nine-year-old brother Jan could hardly wait. They had come especially from Cologne with their grandmother. “When is it finally going to start?” asked Bent. At that moment there was a loud bang and the Bonn-Center collapsed.
Show of humour from a fireman
As if on command, mobile phones and cameras were raised in the air and a few seconds later the spectators applauded. In a show of humour, a fireman took a bow and everyone laughed and applauded again.
A group of Canadian tourists were out and about early to go to the Haus Der Geschichte and wondered why the road was blocked. On hearing why, one of them said: “Oh, hopefully we are still close by here. I would like to see that, I’ve never experienced something like that.” It was a day steeped in history for Bonn.
Explosion Party on the Reuter Bridge
Rhinelanders love to dress up and so on Sunday there was a pretend demolition expert underway. Johannes Tomczyk mingled among the crowd on the Reuter Bridge in a suit, rain cape and a homemade “demolition chief” badge on his yellow hard hat. He and his friends had an Explosion Party on the bridge.
The banks of the Rhine by the WCCB were as busy as ever on a Sunday morning with lots of joggers. One elderly man, who did not want to be named, was walking with his dog. “No, I’m certainly not going to be watching the detonation. That would bring back bad memories,” he said. He lived through the Second World War as a child and has never got the pictures out of his head after bombs reduced Bonn to rubble and ashes.
The lucky ones managed to grab a spot on the roofs of Bonn. Everywhere, farewell pictures were being taken with the Bonn-Center in the background. Then everything was over quickly. After the all clear signal, many made their way to the building site to take photos of the mountain of rubble and dust-covered Bundeskanzlerplatz. Workers from Bonnorange cleaned the streets around the site and they remained closed until 1.30pm.
In the end, the Bonn-Center died a thousand deaths on the internet as numerous photos and video clips circulated on Facebook and Twitter showing the building, the bang and the ruins collapsing. Again and again. (Original text: Richard Bongartz, Lisa Inhoffen, Nicolas Ottersbach. Translated by Kate Carey.)