Under a bright blue sky Wednesday morning, a crowd of nearly 200 gathered to witness the next step in Philly’s efforts to come to terms with the tragic 2013 building collapse that killed six and injured more than a dozen.
“This remarkable memorial park represents the collective will and energy of so many citizens who joined to bear witness and to demand to our city leaders that they forever commit themselves to the highest standards of construction safety and to the preservation and protection of human life,” said Nancy Winkler, the former city treasurer whose daughter Anne Bryan, a 24-year-old art student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was among those killed on June 5, 2013.
Winkler, her husband Jay, Mayor Jim Kenney and other family members of victims participated in the groundbreaking at 22nd and Market streets of a memorial park that will occupy the land where the collapse occurred and pay tribute to the victims.
Winkler paid tribute to all the victims: Juanita Harmon, Bobor Davis, Roseline Conteh, Kimberly Finnegan, Mary Simpson, and her daughter Anne.
“We’re here to remember that they were crushed to death in a third-world style disaster that made international news,” Winkler said.
The land at 22nd and Market streets was actually pitched as a site for a parking lot just days after the collapse occurred, Winkler said.
“Jay and I were appalled,” she said.
Instead, they spearheaded the movement to create a permanent memorial at the site of the collapse. Businesses, citizens, building trade unions and others raised $1.3 million for the project, and are still fundraising for a $100,000 endowment that will go toward the park’s upkeep. The memorial is expected to be completed next fall.
The collapse occurred when demolition on an adjacent property caused a wall to collapse onto a Salvation Army thrift store.
Demolition contractor Griffin Campbell was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. Backhoe operator Sean Benschop pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to 7½ to 15 years in prison.
Civil lawsuits are pending against the city and real estate developer Richard Basciano, who owned the property where the demolition was taking place.
Visit June5memorial.org to learn more.