Brick and mortar was mangled by a bulldozer Tuesday as Dennis Dougherty watched the demolition of his Middletown home.
"I had no choice," he said.
Nearly two years ago to the day, Dougherty's home was severely damaged when Tropical Storm Lee hit central Pennsylvania with heavy rain for six straight days. The nearby Swatara Creek swelled and swallowed much of the Middletown area.
Dougherty choked back his emotions as he watched heavy machinery chomp away at the foundation of his boyhood home. He said it is where he grew up and raised a family.
Middletown secretary and spokesman Chris Courogen said Dougherty's home is the fourth to be demolished under a federally funded FEMA program. He said FEMA purchased 20 flood-damaged properties in the borough.
Several companies are in charge of demolishing the homes and turning them into vacant lots. Courogen said FEMA intends to protect the properties from future floods.
He sympathized with the home owners.
"I know that it is really a difficult experience," he said. "I hope that these properties being demolished bring closure during this tough transition for them."
FEMA requires that the properties remain vacant because much of the area is on a floodplain, but the borough hopes to reevaluate the federal stipulations in the coming years to help ease the tax burden.
"We're losing a tremendous amount of tax revenue from these 20 homes that are going to be gone," Courogen said. "Now, what can we do instead to benefit the community?"
Sixteen homes have been marked for demolition, and two more are in the process of being acquired. Courogen said FEMA requires all homes in "Round One" to be knocked down by October. He said FEMA plans to demolish at least three more properties at later dates.
Even though Dougherty has since moved to Campbelltown, it is still hard to say goodbye to four walls and a roof that provided much more than shelter.
"It's just one of those things that happens," he said. "You don't have any control over it, so you have to move on."