Support gathers for memorial on site of fatal Philly building collapse
A white teddy bear, an American flag and a collection of withering flowers dot the gate enclosing the empty lot where a four-story building collapsed onto a busy Salvation Army thrift store this summer.
There's also a handwritten sign that reads "Petition for memorial" and displays a Web address.
The link leads to a Change.org petition that's asking city officials and the Salvation Army to fund a more permanent reminder of the June 5 tragedy that killed six people: A memorial park.
"The memorial park would be a fitting way to acknowledge the disaster, to assure that it will never be forgotten and to remind the citizens of Philadelphia of the need for more government oversight in building demolitions in order to protect public safety and human lives," writes Philadelphia city treasurer Nancy Winkler, whose 24-year-old daughter, Anne Bryan, was one of the six who were killed in the store.
"A well-designed park and memorial may provide healing for the many people touched by this horrific, entirely avoidable event," the statement continues.
As of Friday, more than 1,500 people had signed the petition.
As she stood across the street from the collapse site, Bille Redmon said she supports Winkler's idea "250 percent."
"It would show that people care, that they haven't been forgotten, and that they are still loved and forever after," said Redmon of Southwest Philadelphia. "It shows the bravery from all the firefighters, from all the policeman, from all the volunteers."
Kensington resident Robert Palushock agrees that a memorial park would honor those that lost their lives. But he said it could also serve as a learning tool.
"If people are going to tear down these buildings and think about all the money they're going to make, they should maybe think about other people's safety and not just about lining their pockets with another building in Center City," said Palushock as he eyed the site of the collapse.
It's a lesson city officials should be reminded of for years to come, said Julian Touchstone.
"If you forget the mistakes that occurred, you're bound to repeat them," said Touchstone before continuing past the site with Palushock.
The petition specifically calls on Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke and the Salvation Army to fund the park.
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald declined comment. Clarke did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Attorney Eric Weiss, who represents the Salvation Army, said the organization is "extremely" sympathetic to Winkler's request, but has not reached a decision yet about the site's future.
"It's still a fresh wound and the Salvation Army has no idea what the future holds with regards to that property, which was an important part of the Salvation Army's mission here in Philadelphia," said Weiss.
The petition was launched as the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office continues its grand jury investigation into the collapse.
A criminal case against a backhoe operator on the site on the day of the collapse is also ongoing.