PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Ceremonies this morning marked the one-year anniversary of a fatal building collapse in center city. Families and friends of the victims planted the first tree in a memorial park dedicated to the six people who lost their lives in the disaster.
The site of the future memorial, at 22nd and Market Streets, was donated by the Salvation Army.
This morning’s ceremony at the site was attended by family and friends of the victims and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.
At one point pausing to compose himself, Nutter told the crowd of about 200 people that he can never know the pain of family members of the victims, “but I do want to personally and very publicly apologize to each and every one of you for what happened here that day.”
The mayor also says he feels nothing should ever be built on the property next to the memorial.
One year ago today, a building under demolition collapsed on the Salvation Army thrift shop at 22nd and Market Streets, killing six and injuring 14.
A tranquil morning was shattered by what witnesses described as a large boom that shook the ground and created a large cloud of dust rising from where the Salvation Army Thrift Store stood.
Harold Corbin of West Oak Lane was working less than a block away when he heard the sound of an explosion and ran over to investigate.
“There was a couple guys ahead of me, they ran right up, jumped in the hole, started moving debris, passing it to us,” Corbin recalled. “Then they handed us a lady, we took her out, we laid her on the curb.”
Passersby raced toward the danger and began pulling people out of the remains of the store as well as people who had been walking by until firefighters arrived.
Mayor Michael Nutter spoke at the scene as firefighters removed the injured.
“People come here to get clothes or other items, possibly other services. It was in business, it was active,” Nutter said. “There are workers, and, of course, possibly, customers.”
But it wasn’t until after 11pm that day that the mayor announced a stunning development: five women and one man had died, their bodies recovered in a painstaking search of the rubble.
In subsequent days and months, the demolition contractor Griffin Campbell and heavy-equipment operator Sean Benschop were charged for their alleged roles in the collapse. Both are awaiting trial.
Also among the speakers at today’s ceremony was Nancy Winkler, mother of Ann Davis, who was killed in the collapse. Winkler says Ann was crushed to death while coming to make a donation to the Salvation Army.