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A Perfect Implosion of Wetzel Hall

Wetzel Hall at Western Illinois University no longer exists -- except in the hearts and memories of those who lived and worked there.  

The 13-story building was imploded July 14 during an event that drew hundred of spectators. Many took part in a tailgate-style party in the sprawling parking lot known as Q-lot, which is just west of Wetzel. Many others gathered in the parking lot for the University Services Building, which is northeast of Wetzel.

At 7:00 am, WIU Senior William Schmidt pushed down on the ceremonial plunger to start the implosion.  

While the mood was festive beforehand, there was a touch of sadness after the building collapsed inward in a huge cloud of dust.

“After it went down, my heart just sank. It was a very hard thing to watch,” said Jayson Nelson.

He made many friends in Wetzel -- friends he is still in touch with today -- and took part in many late night study sessions there.

Nelson lived in Wetzel from 2002 - 2004. He is now a catering supervisor for Sodexo at WIU and was in Q-lot to work. He did not expect such emotions to surface.

“The good and the bad times seem just all good right now.”

Kevin and Lynn Betts of Appleton, WI, have been married 29 years. Their relationship started when they were students in Wetzel. Both were moved to see the building where they met come tumbling down.

Kevin Betts: “I thought I would be more in control but when it came down, when it was a cloud of smoke, I kind of lost it.”

Lynn Betts: “It killed me.”

Kevin Betts: “We still have the memories. Friends and my wife.”

Lynn Betts: “My video is not worthy. It shook because I was crying.”

Contractors with Controlled Demolition Inc and Brandenburg Industrial Services said the implosion came off perfectly.

Weztel was built in 1970. More than 20,000 students lived there before it was taken off line in 2009. Crews will spend the next six weeks clearing the site, which will eventually be developed into a park.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.