In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
(Dr. Martin Luther King)
On June 5th, our cherished 24-year-old daughter Anne Bryan was crushed to death in the 22nd and Market St. building collapse. Anne was a vibrant, talented, artist with a brilliant life before her – and her future was destroyed on that day. Our family is heartbroken; we feel Anne’s absence every day. We know that the families of the other five victims grieve for their loved ones and suffer the pain of losing a loved one suddenly and tragically. We also extend our deep concern for Mariya Plenkin who is struggling for her life.
Our grief has been made more difficult by the substantial evidence that the collapse was entirely avoidable, and that the danger was well known for weeks before the collapse by many senior people in positions of power and authority. The owner of the property being demolished, STB Investments, warned in writing for weeks that there was the risk of an “uncontrolled collapse” that “threatened life and limb” and could result in “headlines none of us want to see or read.” Yet despite this knowledge STB continued their demolition. And despite the clear and repeated warnings, no one took action to stop them.
We have been long time supporters of the Salvation Army and admire their commitment to care for the disadvantaged. But, in this case, they failed in their duty to protect the public and their employees. The evidence shows that that they had sufficient information that there was a substantial risk of collapse and that their response was not appropriate given the risk. Bricks were raining down on their building for days prior to the collapse. The Salvation Army store should never have been open on June 5.
As grieving parents who have lost their precious child, we need to uncover all the facts that led to our daughter’s death. We applaud the District Attorney’s Grand Jury investigation into the cause of the collapse and hope and support an investigation into everyone and every factor that led to the collapse. We also thank the City Council with regard to its special investigating committee. Our objective is to ensure that no other parents have to endure what we have, and we are committed to making sure this never happens again.
As Anne’s parents we are calling for a full, fair, and impartial investigation of the collapse. This shameful and shocking event was widely reported across the world. Philadelphians must demand better. Public safety should be primary and should never take a back seat to the demands of developers. Various entities are considering enhanced demolition standards, but we believe the city must establish a well-funded, fully independent blue ribbon panel of national safety, engineering, architecture, and construction experts. This special panel should fully and comprehensively evaluate all aspects of the City Licenses and Inspections Department and its chain of command, organizational structure, staffing levels, procedures, policies and practices. The review should include the professional qualifications of the L&I leadership, qualifications and training of staff as well as ultimate chain of command reporting. This investigation will not bring back the victims–but it may shed light on the dangers in our midst, where building collapses have become an all-too-common source of death and injury.
The 22nd and Market catastrophe must never be forgotten. We strongly urge the City and its leaders to support the creation of a memorial and park on the site, one, which fittingly acknowledges the catastrophe, and the six victims who were killed. A memorial park will help us remember and provide a place of quiet and beauty for all Philadelphians to enjoy. If a beautiful memorial park for all the citizens of Philadelphia to enjoy in perpetuity comes to pass, it will be a comfort to us that something positive will have come out of this horror. We have begun a petition in support of such a memorial and we urge all Philadelphians to sign it at http://www.change.org/stopdemodeaths
We thank the first responders and the members of the general public who tried to save the victims in the moments and hours after the collapse. We are so grateful to all of our family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, along with Anne’s Friend’s School Haverford and Penn Charter schoolmates, parents and teachers and the community at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts who have surrounded us with love and support as we collectively mourn Anne Bryan’s untimely death. Thank you.