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NCSU bell tower damaged, possibly struck by lightning

Posted May 6, 2009 9:49 a.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2009 6:07 p.m. EDT

— Lightning is believed to have damaged North Carolina State University's bell tower, which was surrounded with yellow police tape on Wednesday.

The lightning is believed to have hit at 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, said Jack Colby, assistant vice chancellor of facility operations. Some nearby witnesses said the strike displaced a 24-inch capstone, which sat atop the tall tower. A chunk of the granite was knocked out of it.

On Wednesday, pieces of granite littered the ground and the capstone teetered on the edge of the tower.

Two men wearing harnesses made their way up the inside of the tower to try to secure it. The tower's clock stood frozen, however the device that sounds the bells was still working Wednesday morning.

The tower did stop working for a short period of time, Colby said. The breakers tripped, which helped protect the other electrical equipment.

In the past 10 years the tower has been hit by lightning a few times, Colby said. "This was the first time there was actual physical damage," he said.

The tower was built as a memorial to the university's 33 World War I dead, and the iconic structure was partially completed by 1922.

For decades, the 115-foot landmark has set the stage for campus events such as the annual Krispy Kreme Run.

In an interview last month, graduate student Matthew Robbins said the memorial is incomplete as it stands. He and some other students are trying to raise enough money to install the 54 bells that were part of the original design.

Some students who are part of the Class of 2010 want the bell's completion to be their gift to the school. The students don't plan to use any tax money for the bells. It could be a couple of years before real bells replace the recorded chimes and speakers.

Read more about students' efforts to finish the tower and add real bells.

Students and officials are now trying to repair the tower before commencement this weekend. Officials will be bringing in a crane to work on the tower.

“I’m graduating in a couple of days and now there’s all this tape around it,” N.C. State senior Christine Craven said on Wednesday after she picked up a piece of the granite on the ground surrounding the tower. “It’s a big part of going here.”