July 16, 2013: Samara Selena Banks, 28, and three of her four children were killed when they were hit by a speeding car while crossing the Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia.
If Samara Selena Banks had taken her normal route home last Tuesday night, she may have lived to celebrate her son's birthday today.
"I remember she did say that this man kept following her when she would go the C Street way, so normally she would get a little cab service or something. But it was nice out that night, so she just took the short walk and went the other way. It just really baffled me because I know the way she goes home," Samara's aunt, Latonya Byrd said.
"You have your children with you at night, you gotta think quickly. A man is walking behind you, of course you're going to change your route."
One week ago today, 28 year-old Samara Selena Banks and her sons, 7-month old Saamir Williams, 23-month-old son Saa-Sean and four-year-old Saa-Deem were struck and killed by a 2012 Audi that police say was street racing with a 1994 Honda when the Audi lost control.
Saa-Sean is believed to have been riding in the stroller that was later found mangled at the scene of the crash. He would have been two-years-old today. The family is expected to gather at the crash site later today for a ceremonial balloon release in his honor.
Her eldest son, the lone survivor of the crash, 5 year-old Saa-yon was later released from Albert Einstein Hospital with bumps and bruises. Byrd says he has since been surrounded by family, helping him cope with the loss.
Saa-yon said his first words about the accident yesterday.
"I've gotta get him in therapy. He's been playing with his cousins to keep busy but he finally said something yesterday. He looked around and he just looked sad and he said, 'I miss my mom.' For him, it's a lot to deal with," she said. "But we're working on him. The family is around him and we try to keep him with the children, his cousins, a lot."
"He's holding up pretty good, considering. He's around family and friends and everybody is being very supportive to him," Saa-sean's godmother Tyeisha Marshall said.
The family spent the weekend raising funds to go towards the funeral costs for Banks and her three sons. As of Saturday, the family had collected $6,000 in donations.
Byrd said, to her knowledge, fund-raising efforts have halted as funeral arrangements are being finalized today. She added, not everyone raising money is part of the family's effort.
"We still have to go and finalize things at the church, but once I do all of that and we know all of those people are paid, I want to make an announcement to thank everybody who donated. If any other funds come in, we'll work to make sure they go to good use. I heard they are trying to do a scholarship fund for Saa-yon," she said.
"We don't know everybody; other people all over the city are saying they're collecting money for Samara. I don't know who they're giving money to, but we will try to find out. We're not part of doing anything wrong. We set something up with Wells Fargo so things could be monitored and tracked, and everything we get will be going to the funeral home."
Mayor Michael Nutter, once a very vocal proponent of safety on the Boulevard has yet to speak on the accident. Nutter's spokesman Mark McDonald said he could not predict if the Mayor would speak on the issue in the future.
Nutter was unavailable for comment again today.
Byrd says the family is relying on input from the community to determine exactly what should be done to improve safety at the intersection. She said she hopes Nutter will act on their recommendations.
"We did realize that Mayor Nutter hasn't said anything. We've spoken to some other city officials, but I don't know why he hasn't said anything yet. We want what the community wants. Those people that live over there ran straight to the scene; they were right there. So whatever they say needs to be there to make it better, we want the Mayor to see it through," she said.
"I drive the Boulevard every day to get to work. They have cameras so they know that people have to get across the street. We want a crosswalk and we want lights out there or even put a speed monitor there too like the ones they have at Levick, because people think when its dark and its late that they can just race down that road. It's been a lot of deaths up there, but maybe it takes this one to make a change," Byrd said.
The funeral for Banks and her children will be held on Saturday at Deliverance Church on 2001 W. Lehigh Avenue in Philadelphia. The viewing will take place from 8:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. The funeral services begin at 11:00 a.m.