On Saturday, the morning after they returned from out of town, David Underwood and his wife decided they ought to stop by their house on Watercress Drive in Fort Worth. The couple doesn't live there at the moment; the modest, ranch-style affair overlooking the northwest corner of Lake Worth belonged to his late grandmother, and the empty-nesters are fixing it up for an eventual move-in. Underwood really just figured the acre-and-a-half spread would need a trim.
So that's where Underwood's eyes were focused as he drove up the residential street; sure enough, the grass was looking a bit shaggy. His wife, meanwhile, was looking up above.
"We rounded the corner and my wife, Valerie says, 'The house is gone David,'" he told Unfair Park. "I'm looking at the yard, so I looked and I'm like, 'Wow, OK.'" They drove their car onto the concrete slab, just to make sure. It was as if a miniature twister had targeted 9716 Watercress Drive, sweeping the house cleanly off its foundation while leaving trees and surrounding homes untouched. Underwood learned from a passing city marshal that there'd been no tornado, just an epic bureaucratic snafu.
Underwood relates all this less like someone whose home disappeared over the weekend than a Zen monk who's misplaced his car keys.
Fox 4's Dionne Anglin interviewed Underwood on Monday and fills in the rest. The city of Fort Worth had sent out a demolition crew last week to raze the home at 9708 Watercress, which was condemned months ago. That property looked like this:
It still does, because the demolition crew contracted by the city instead targeted the vacant but well-kept home next door.
This is the point when most people would resort to firebombing city hall. But Underwood merely called his city councilman, whose staff immediately set to work and informed the city they had made an error, which they acknowledge.
"A mistake was made," Fort Worth's code compliance director, Brandon Bennett, told The Dallas Morning News' Dave Lieber. "We have to identify where the weak link was and fix that so it doesn't happen again. We need to look at all of our upcoming demolitions, and double- and triple-check these things to make sure everybody has dotted the I's and crossed the T's."
Because next time, their victim won't be as incredibly understanding as Underwood, who is waiting patiently while the claim he filed with the city's risk management department is processed.
And in case you're wondering how Underwood manages to stay so relentlessly upbeat after losing his grandmother's home, try working at a nonprofit like United Community Centers, which serves children and families in low-income areas.
"Ninety-seven percent of the people we serve earn less than $17,000 per year," he says. "I see people every day who have it so bad. I still have a house. It's not like I'm living in a cardboard box down by the river."