Six months ago, six lives were lost and more than a dozen people were hurt when a building collapsed onto a store in Center City.
Six months ago six people lost their lives while inside a Philadelphia store.
On the eve of the six-month anniversary of the deadly building collapse in Center City, families and friends of those killed and injured and community leaders stood together for a candlelight vigil to remember those lost.
A prayer service took place at 5:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church at 21st and Walnut Streets on Wednesday night. Following the hour-long service, participants marched to the collapse site at 22nd and Market Streets for the vigil.
"I thought it was very moving to be here on this corner with the candlelight," said Nancy Winkler, the mother of one of the victims killed in the collapse. "Everyone holding a candle. And the words of the minister saying, 'We're bringing light to this corner.'"
The somber event came ahead of the anniversary of the demolition disaster that killed six and injured 13 people.
It was 10:41 in the morning on Wednesday, June 5 when the four-story western wall of 2136 Market Street toppled down onto the one-story Salvation Army Thrift Store next door. The shop was filled with workers and patrons, all whom were buried under brick, wood and glass.
Some victims suffocated to death under the debris and one woman, Mariya Plekan, was trapped for 13 hours. She had to have both legs amputated at the hip.
Contractor Griffin Campbell had been demolishing the brick building at 2136 Market and, according to witnesses, images of the site and investigators, the wall was left unbraced and unsupported to sway in the wind.
The project's architect, Plato Marinakos, allegedly warned Campbell the wall could fall at any time, a day before the collapse. Campbell promised to take it down by hand, according to investigators. The contractor then allegedly lied to Marinakos saying he had safely demolished wall, only to leave it standing without supports.
Campbell, 49, was indicted by a grand jury on six counts of third degree murder, six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person.
Sean Benschop, a.k.a. Kary Roberts, was also charged in the collapse. Benschop was allegedly high on painkillers and marijuana when he was operating a backhoe at the site. He faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment.
In the wake of the collapse, the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections issued new guidelines for demolitions taking place inside the city.
A special City Council investigative committee also issued 71 reform recommendations ranging from changes in demolition paperwork to altering the Philadelphia Code to giving the Philadelphia Fire Department more power to stop bad demolitions.
The parents of Anne Bryan, one of the victims who died in the collapse, also spearheaded the creation of a blue-ribbon commission to investigate the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections. The 24-year-old woman's parents have also started a petition to turn the site into a memorial. Many families who marched Wednesday night agreed.
"If we build on this property we'll forget," Winkler said. "This is too horrifying for us to ever forget this."
Wednesday night's vigil was not organized by the city but instead by neighbors and friends who were eager to support their community.