By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fifteen years ago today, three women lost their lives and dozens more were injured when a pier holding an open-air bar collapsed into the Delaware River. The mother of one of the victims has turned tragedy into triumph.
May has always been tough for Blanche White-Toole. It’s the month her daughter DeAnn White died, buried under the murky water when Pier 34 collapsed a decade and a half ago.
“Looking at that train wreck it just brought me back to May 18th 2000,” says Blanche White-Toole, “the way that it looked, the wreck and all the rubble and all the trash that our daughters were buried under, it just took me back.”
DeAnn White was 25, celebrating her upcoming birthday. The Temple University journalism grad was vivacious and meticulous, her family says, with a bright future ahead. So White-Toole and her four remaining daughters worked to find a way to make sure DeAnn is not forgotten. In 2000, they started the DeAnn White Scholarship Award at Temple University. Later on they founded a Scholarship at Enon Tabernacle Church and most recently a Community Service Award. Over the past fifteen years, they’ve taken donations and given thousands in scholarships to fuel the future of dozens of young men and women.
“We keep in touch with them, we’ve gotten to know them,” says White-Toole. “We see pictures of babies and that’s quite exciting.”
“I was actually really moved by her story,” says Jane Babian, a journalism senior at Temple University. She joined more than a dozen other recipients of the DeAnn Scholarship Award this year. An Allentown native, Babian commutes to the Lehigh Valley every week so she can work to earn enough money to stay in school.
“I believe I have some of the same tributes DeAnn had,” says Babian. “It’s tragic how she died, but it’s nice that the family wants to help people who are working in their daughter’s profession.”
The White family has given thousands over the years. And mom says the giving is healing.
“It’s her legacy and we’re very proud of that, and proud of everything that she has done,” she says. “It’s just a joyous thing to know that it’s just a positive thing that she left us.”