Ithaca Commons crash: Matt's Memo

Crash on Ithaca Commons.

When I hear the words Simeon's and Ithaca together I immediately recall smiling, happy people sitting at the tables in the elevated window enjoying lunch and a glass of wine. It is a restaurant that first won over my affection as an Ithaca College freshman more than thirty years ago. In the 1980's it was one of the most popular drinking spots for IC students before the drinking age jumped up to 21. All those memories came back today as I saw the first pictures of the double decker tractor trailer slamming into the historic structure.

It was not a surprise that a tractor trailer lost control driving down the hills of Ithaca. 15 years ago another big rig came flying down the State Street hill and just missed Simeon's. Anyone who has driven through the Ithaca area knows the hilly terrain.

I once experienced the near total loss of braking power going down a hill in Ithaca. It is a frightening proposition. For a truck driver lugging all that tonnage there must be a true sense of helplessness.

Today was different. At 4:00 pm this afternoon the explosive crash occurred. This was not a near miss. People on the Commons jumped out of the way, truly running for their lives. After the collision a fire broke out. Those in the basement barber shop came out wondering what hit them. The workers and guests inside Simeon's helped each other. There was one they could not save. The young bartender trapped behind the collapsed bar.

The future of the building is in jeopardy. It dates back to 1872. Ithaca city engineers are assessing it. The people who live in upstairs apartments are being put up elsewhere. As the mayor said this afternoon, everyone wants to save the building, but if public safety is at stake it may have to come down.

We can see the anguish on the faces of the Simeon's owners and workers at their loss of their friend and co-worker. The greater Ithaca community is also feeling that personal loss and the potential loss of a landmark on the Commons.


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