Building collapse memorial full of pain, questions

Posted: June 06, 2014

WHERE there was rubble, there is now soil.

Where there was death, there is now a plan for life.

Where there was pain, there is still pain.

Ceaseless pain.

One year after the building collapse that claimed the lives of six people and injured 13 in the Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market streets, the families of the victims gathered at the site yesterday to mark the anniversary and to dedicate a small park where the building once stood.

Although he didn't go to the ceremony, one man was on the minds of many of the speakers: Richard Basciano.

The real-estate developer owned the building that was being demolished next door and collapsed onto the Salvation Army.

His demolition contractor and excavator operator have both been criminally charged, but Basciano has remained free - and silent.

Yesterday, those whose lives have been forever changed called for Basciano to come forward, to come clean and to donate the land from his building to the memorial park. The Salvation Army donated its land to the city for a park with trees and stone benches, but the plot is small and narrow.

Maryann McClain Mason, who lost her stepfather, Borbor Davis, in the collapse, said Davis was just going to work that day, trying to do a good thing.

"A building took my dad away - I know somebody owns that building," she said. "It has been one year and we have not heard from whoever owned that building that fell and took away my daddy!"

City Treasurer Nancy Winkler, whose 24-year-old daughter, Anne Bryan, died in the collapse, said that of the many things that went wrong, the worst was people losing sight of their "basic responsibilities" to protect human life.

"There were people who did not do their jobs or justified development as an imperative that allowed them to cut corners or look the other way because they think profit and development trumps all," she said. "I am here to tell you that it does not."

Mayor Nutter, who apologized one at a time to each of the victims and each of their family members, said the city would make sure the funds for the 2,400-square-foot memorial park will be raised. Then he looked to the much larger plot of land next door.

"It is my feeling that not only this site should be our memorial, but that nothing should ever be built on the adjacent site to it," he said. "Under no circumstances should anything ever be built on the site adjacent to our site."

Nutter declined to answer questions, but when contacted for clarification later, his spokesman Mark McDonald said that the administration has not had contact with Basciano and that the mayor was expressing a "personal view." McDonald said the city doesn't know what Basciano intends for the property.

After the ceremony, Sierra Leone native Kadie Conteh, whose sister Roseline Conteh died in the collapse, expressed disbelief that it happened in the United States.

"Even back home you cannot just demolish a building like that, they use sticks to brace the buildings," she said. "It's just gross callousness."

Roseline Conteh's son Francis Sankoh said she visited the Salvation Army to buy clothes to send back to relatives in Sierra Leone. He said that when they found his mother's body, she had the receipt for her purchase.

"She was about to exit the building," he said. "The service today was beautiful, but it's never going to replace the lives of the people that died."


On Twitter: @FarFarrAway

Online: ph.ly/crime

Blog: ph.ly/Delco

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|