McLaughlin had an early dismissal. He watched as two people strolled into the neighboring thrift shop before the building collapsed. Smoke filled the air and the impact of the debris caused people to fall to the ground others scattered across the street.
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Ed Davis, 42, who works in medical device sales at Thomas Jefferson Hospital was about to leave for the day when he heard employees inform workers to prepare the emergency rooms.
"It's scary to see Market Street totally shutdown – a street that normally is so busy," he said, standing among others looking toward the collapsed building on 22nd Street near Market. "It sounds like a random accident, but everyone first feared the worst."
"It's scary how quiet everything is, I think everyone is nervous and praying for the people who are still in there."
Six of the victims were taken to Jefferson, three to Hahnemann University Hospital and four to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. One was listed in serious condition.
Bryant Richardson, 37, who does building maintenance in the area was in a meeting when word of the collapse appeared on the late morning news.
"The first thing I thought of was that something terroristic happened," Richardson said, adding he hoped the people inside made it out safely. Richardson said he thought the collapse could have been prevented.
"Preventive maintenance is always good," he said. "You have to check the structure of the building to make sure everything is fine and to make sure people are doing what they need to be doing."
Carolyn Moore, 30, who also works downtown wanted answers about the collapse.
"For this to just happen out of the blue. . .this opens a lot of questions," she said.
Maintenance workers Harold Corbin, 51, and Jim Buggey, 46, sprung into action seconds after the collapse.
“I heard the crash and I seen the smoke when I was outside, and I walked, started off with a fast pace, but then as you see what’s going on and you start hearing it, the pace just picked up. We just started grabbing people,” Corbin said.
He had been doing a repair at the River West Condominiums at 21st and Chestnut streets when he heard a loud boom and saw a cloud of smoke. When he walked toward the smoke, he was met with a scene of devastation and a chorus of cries for help.
In a split-second, he and Buggey ran toward the dust-clouded pile of debris, along with a group of contractors who’d been working nearby, and began pulling survivors out of the rubble.
“It wasn’t a second thought. We just ran up there,” Corbin said, praising the courage of the other men with who climbed into the hole to start digging people out.
“I wish those guys were here right now, because they went in the hole and passed the ladies to us,” Corbin said. “It was like a quarterback-wide receiver play. They passed us the people, we carried them out and came back in.”
In all, Corbin, Buggey and the other men pulled four people – all of whom were conscious and talking – from the wreckage in what Corbin called a “furious 10 minutes.”
Corbin said the injured seemed to be in shock and suffered bumps, bruises and other minor injuries. One woman clung to him as he carried her from the rubble: “I got the lady, and she was screaming and hollering. I was like, ‘We got you, ma’am, we got you, ma’am.’ And that’s when I grabbed her from the back … and I lifted her up and we started taking her down, and she was saying, ‘Please don’t drop me. Please don’t drop me.’”
He and the other men who carried victims out had to navigate a sea of jagged nails coming out of debris, but managed to carry two women to safety at the curb and also help two senior-citizen men from the wreckage, they said.
“’Thank you and God bless you.’ That’s all we heard” from the victims, Corbin said.
He and Buggey, friends for more than a decade, said they and the others who helped people in the immediate aftermath were simply in the right place at the right time.
“It wasn’t just us … there were a lot of other heroes. I mean real, real, real heroes,” Corbin said. “It was by the grace of God, I think, today. The grace of God.”
He added: “It’s amazing that everybody just clicked together. People that you don’t even know together, and everybody just responded and just acted in the same nature.”
On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom