After Kanaby’s devastating blow to the old wall, he sees something odd sticking out from the rubble. Confused, he picks it up.
He delicately holds the broken glass. He sees a slightly yellow and torn page. It’s withered by time but its beautiful and ornately-written script is clear as day. Eyes wide, he reads.
It was just like any other day on the job when Robert Kanaby, a resident of New Jersey and union worker, got a call to work on a demolition job with his crew at Montclair State University.
With years of experience working with his team and ripping apart large structures, Kanaby didn’t think this would be any different to what he’s used to. But he was wrong.
As Kanaby and his team assess the construction site, he grows concerned about the amount of heavy hitting it will take to take down this big solid structure.
Nonetheless, they make a plan of attack and start to prepare the tools they need. As they joke and laugh with each other while tending to their tasks, they hear a cry for help.
The men look for the voice and see one of their crew wave at them, looking like he needs help. Alarmed, they run over to him.
Thankfully, all he needs is help using a piece of heavy machinery. It’s a two man job. The men tease him for calling out in a panic and get on with their tasks. Kanaby looks around the site and then he sees it.
He makes his way to the van and takes a hammer with him. He separates from the others and decides to work on the piece of wall.
As he gets closer, he realizes just how tall and thick it is. It’s a 14-foot very old brick wall with three layers of brick. He wonders if he should ask his crew for help. He doesn’t and regrets it.
Just as Kanaby gears up for the first strike, he pauses. For a moment, he worries that he misjudged the way this wall could come down. Mostly, he begins to get a little nervous about bricks falling overheard that could potentially injure him gravely.
He rethinks the possible outcomes. Now, convinced he has judged it correctly, he strikes.
His first strike doesn’t do much damage. A few pieces of debris break away, leaving behind a decent dent. He strikes again, this time with more power.
Nothing but a dent again. He wonders if he should really call his crew for help now. The wall is tougher than he imagined. As he pulls back for his third swing, someone taps his shoulder.
It’s one of his crew buddies. He saw Kanaby struggling and came over to help. Tools in hand, he joins forces with Kanaby. The two of them focus all their strength on this old wall.
They make progress, but it came at an expense. Kanaby turns to ask his buddy if he’d like some water, but what he sees was more than an exhausted man. He calls for help.
Wincing, Kanaby’s friend was holding his hand close to his chest. His face, sweaty and pale. Smiling, he reassures Kanaby that he’s ok.
But Kanaby knows from experience, his hand needs attention. His crew come over and help his friend back to treat his injury. Kanaby needs to continue working on the stubborn wall. Getting revenge for his friend, he hits the wall, and everything changes.
Just as Kanaby gives a devastating blow to the tough wall, he hears the unmistakable sound of shattering glass. Confused, he looks down.
To his surprise, he finds something sticking out of the rubble. Around it, he sees shards of broken glass explaining what he heard. Carefully, he removes the rubble on top of the mysterious object.
While he removes the pieces of brick, he reassesses the broken glass. It looks like a beer bottle. It all becomes clearer now. Kanaby knows he’s looking at a message in a bottle.
Finally, he picks up the note. The first thing he notices is the beautiful and ornately-written script. The page is slightly yellow and torn, obviously withered by time. Eyes wide, he reads.
The note penned; “This is to certify the wall was built by two bricklayers from Newark, New Jersey, by the names of William Hanly and James Lennon, member of No. 3 of the B.M.I.U. of America and P W Lynch was also working on the job.”
But there was something else written.
There in black ink, read the date ‘1907’. This was the oldest thing Kanaby has ever found on a demolition job and it stood out to him, calling to his nostalgia.
“Back then, blood, sweat and tears went into building this wall. When we found the bottle, a little bit of tears were shed,” Kanaby says. So, what happened to these bricklayers?
With such a rare and unexpected find, Kanaby and Montclair State University felt compelled to look for these two bricklayers and their descendants to let them know.
Eventually they found information on Lennon, who had living grandchildren. The university will exhibit the unexpected find for all students and the greater public to see. And Kanaby?
Kanaby has since been promoted and will continue working in a job that offers him so much joy and friendship, just like the two bricklayers of 1907.
“The camaraderie between union members and laborers, bricklayers, masons, carpenters is very tight,” Kanaby says. “Once you make a bond with someone, it’s almost a bond for life.”