For decades it squatted on the west bank of the Scioto River, directly across from downtown Columbus — a bland, nondescript, hunched building, instantly forgettable to all who drove past it, noteworthy only for its absolute, unflinching genericness.
The Franklin County Veterans Memorial was home to trade shows and auto shows and generic meetings of groups. No one really cared much about it, one way or the other. And when Franklin County Commissioners voted to demolish the building as part of a plan to add some much-needed dash and character to the west bank of the river, no one really cared much one way or the other about that, either — with one striking exception.
For one group, Veterans Memorial was a grotesque living reminder of a horrible few days — a period in their lives that was so terrible that just looking at the building and parking lot brought back soul-crushing recollections of angst and strain, panic and pressure, and the ultimate in testing nightmares. That is because, for years and years, every new law school graduate who wanted to be licensed to practice law in Ohio had to come to Veterans Memorial in Columbus and sit in its cavernous main room to take the multi-day bar exam.
After three years of law school, your professional and financial future rode entirely on your performance on one test. It was an all-or-nothing proposition: pass, and you went on to become a practicing lawyer; fail, and . . . well, failure was unthinkable. Everyone who has taken the bar exam remembers the sense of suffocating pressure, the grim expressions of their fellow test-takers, and the oppressive atmosphere in that testing room.
Some lawyers who successfully navigated the bar exam make jokes about it now, much like people who’ve been through a painful divorce attempt awkward humor about it. But the jokes aren’t funny, and every lawyer knows it. Deep down, every lawyer in Ohio is secretly thrilled that Vets Memorial has been reduced to rubble, and that the ugly physical reminder of their ugly rite of passage is no more. We are free.
Good riddance! May the rubble itself burn in hell.