Felicia Hill was inside the Salvation Army thrift store last Wednesday when the four-story building next door came crashing down on the Philadelphia store. Hill is the first victim to talk at length about what happened during the deadly collapse, which killed six people and injured 13 others.
Felicia Hill was used to the sound of bricks falling from the building next door to her workplace.
"I was just hoping that nothing would happen, but it did," Hill said.
She and other co-workers at the Salvation Army thrift store had been bothered by the noise for weeks as crews worked to demolish the four-story building at 22nd and Market in Center City Philadelphia.
But last Wednesday, that noise gave way to a deadly shudder.
"I was in the back pricing some clothing when I heard the bricks fall in the ceiling, and uh, when I heard the bricks falling from the ceiling, I felt this shaking like an earthquake and then I heard this gust of wind come in and I seen, just the wall fall and the dust cloud that fell...I'm sorry," Hill said, grabbing a tissue and taking a moment to compose herself.
Hill, a 36-year-old mother of seven, is the first survivor to talk at length about the deadly collapse.
In the flash of time before the collapse, Hill remembers looking down the aisle toward one of her co-workers, Kimberly Finnegan.
"The whole entire wall had fell down and buried her, and then I ran for my life," Hill said.
Another co-worker who'd been standing right behind Hill ended up trapped too.
"I was just standing there, covering, shielding my head, trying to protect anything from falling on my head and I seen my assistant supervisor and he was trying to calm me down," Hill said.
"And somebody from the outside grabbed me, another fireman grabbed me and pulled me out."
Hill doesn't know exactly how long she was trapped, but by the measure of life and death, she knows that she is fortunate. She was hospitalized and went home that day with bumps and bruises and enough strength to hold on to her daughter.
"I just held her that day and let her know I was OK."
Hill spoke today alongside her attorney, Emmett Madden.
When asked how she was doing emotionally, Hill says she is experiencing a range of emotions. Six people died that day, including Finnegan and two other co-workers.
"Sadness, hurt, anger. Right now, I'm just distraught," Hill said. "I don't understand how this could happen."
Hill had worked for the Center City thrift store for about eight months and before that, was a volunteer at the store in Roxborough. Her attorney said she was close to receiving full benefits.
Hill and her attorney have partnered with the Philadelphia law firm, Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barret & Bendesky, whose list of clients suing the building's owner and contractor now includes six survivors.
The other victims represented include Jennifer Reynolds, 27. She's an event planner who was shopping in the store at the time of the collapse. She was trapped in the rubble and suffered extensive injuries to her face, head and neck before being rescued, according to her attorneys.
Bernard DiTomo, 61, is the construction worker whose truck was hit by falling debris. DiTomo said that day too that the collapse "felt like an earthquake."
Rosemary Kreutzberg, 66, was shopping that day. She was thrown to the ground and her head was pinned under debris for nearly three hours, able to move only an arm and leg.
Nadine White, 54, also worked at the Salvation Army thrift store. She was the first victim to file suit the day after the collapse. The mother of three was thrown to the ground and buried in the rubble for 10 to 15 minutes.
And Rodney Geddis, 21, is another thrift store worker. He'd been a sales associate for more than two years. During the collapse, he took a bad blow to the head, suffered serious back injuries and abdominal bleeding. His attorneys say he lost consciousness and can't remember how he got out alive.