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Trapped For 13 Hours, Building Collapse Survivor Shares Her Story Nearly One Year Later

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(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Speaking with help from an interpreter, Mariya Plekan told of her terror.

Buried under tons of rubble from a Center City demolition site collapse at 22nd and Market Streets June 5th, 2013, she hoped somehow she would be found alive, after six others had died and a dozen others injured.

READ: Complete Coverage Of Center City Building Collapse

“I never felt so scared, bricks on me, I couldn’t breathe,” Plekan explained from a wheelchair at a West Philadelphia Rehabilitation Center.

“I just prayed, always prayed, someone would hear me.”

Finally, after 13 hours, fully conscious, in agonizing pain, she was pulled out alive.

“I heard people walking on top of me,” Plekan said. “I started to push, a dog found me. I wish I could find the man with the dog. He found me, he saved my life.”

Free of the rubble, Plekan’s fight to survive was only beginning, months of operations requiring the full amputation of her entire body below her waist.

“I can no longer take care of myself,” she explained as tears filled her eyes.

“I can’t get used to the ‘new me.'”

While she appreciates the loving care she receives at the center, she longs to be permanently reunited with her son, daughter and granddaughter and her native Ukraine.

“They’ll take care of me like no one else,” she said softly. “They’ll take me back.”

Finally, with two people charged and a grand jury still investigating, Mariya told those responsible to look at her and understand what they have done.

“I say to people, look at me, look at what you have done.”

Rescuers credit Plekan’s incredible strength with helping her stay conscious through terrible pain. Had she passed out and her voice gone silent, rescuers say, there is a good chance she might not have been found alive.

With medical bills already well into the millions, Plekan and her family have filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages.

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