By Rita LaDoux

Every day we are treated to a parade of political hopefuls ushered across the lobby of Trump Tower. The dark walls gleam and sparkle in cold, imposing splendor. What is the history of these impressive marble breccia walls?

“Breccia” is a geological term used to describe a disturbed layer of rock. Under normal conditions, rock is laid down in broad horizontal layers. But when massive bodies— asteroids or meteors or comets—plunge into the earth, the force of their impact causes these horizontal layers, especially the thinner, more fragile layers of sedimentary rock, to violently break apart, leaving behind a jumbled mass of scrambled rock called breccia. Breccia layers are the boundaries that signal to geologists major, cataclysmic, often global changes in the earth. These boundaries mark the transition between geological time periods accompanied by mass extinction events.

One such event occurred about 2 billion years ago when a massive meteorite slammed into the earth near present-day Sudbury, Ontario. At the time, iron ore was being deposited along the shores of shallow inland seas. But above the breccia boundary from Sudbury, all is changed. All deposits of iron ore stopped—worldwide.

Another layer of breccia can be directly tied to a different disruptive geological event. An asteroid struck some 66 million years ago, forming the Chicxulub crater on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This event triggered the worldwide mass extinctions of 75 percent of plants and animals, including most dinosaurs. It marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Paleogene Periods.

It should come as no surprise that the walls of the ostentatious lobby of Trump Tower in New York City are paneled in slabs of marble breccia. Perhaps reassuring is that his Breccia Pernice was formed in a much smaller event, faulting during the tectonic mountain building of the Alps. Trump himself is reported to have traveled to Italy to choose the stone, and when the lobby was completed, an entire Italian mountaintop had been removed.

We now have a president who has plunged like an asteroid, disturbing our election process, our civil discourse and the traditions of our democratic republic. His impact may be global, or it is hoped, a smaller, more local schism. His presidency promises to be the boundary layer marking a break from our long history. And what record will be laid above Trump’s breccia? One can only hope for a return to respect and honor, but that new history has yet to be laid down. We have entered a new political age.

Rita LaDoux is retired from a 20-year career as an elementary school teacher in St. Paul Public Schools, where she taught reading, writing, math, social studies (history and government), community (how to get along respectfully with others in a diverse multicultural population) and science, based on the work of scientists.

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