The open-air lobby of the barracks, known to the Marines as the battalion landing team headquarters, or BLT, was surrounded by food storage areas, weight machines, and an armory cache. The first, second, and third floors held the Marines' quarters. Its central location on the airport grounds made it the perfect distribution hub for water, rations, and supplies, and its roof offered 360-degree panoramic views and a platform for radio antennae.
When the Marines took over, the BLT was a bombed-out, battle-scarred shell of a building. The second, third, and fourth floors, once encased in plate-glass windows, looked now like rows of broken teeth. The holes were patched with plywood and scrap cloth from sandbags, and makeshift screens of plastic sheets flapped in the wind. The elevator shafts had been burned out. But for all that, the decrepit, Brutalist monstrosity was still standing. The damned thing had not been moved, and so the Marines naturally gravitated to it.
The racket of a Mercedes truck crashing into the building surely woke some of the men. But for a few seconds before the driver detonated his cargo, the truck sat still and quiet in the lobby. The blast severed the base of the building, a set of upright concrete columns measuring fifteen feet in circumference and reinforced with iron rods nearly two inches thick. The BLT's most prominent design feature, an open courtyard that extended from the lobby up to the roof, captured the blast like gas in a bottle, and intensified its force.
The entire structure rose into the air. The top of the building exploded upward in a V shape, like two great arms stretched up to the sky. The BLT hung for a moment in midair, then fell back in on itself, crushed downward, and poured into a crater nine feet deep.