“This Was No Accident”

Seven people dead. Fourteen injured. Families crying for justice. Thanks to a broken city agency, it could all happen again.
The corner of 22nd and Market streets, June 5, 2013. | Photograph courtesy of Michael Bryant/Associated Press.

The corner of 22nd and Market streets, June 5, 2013. | Photograph courtesy of Michael Bryant/Associated Press.

In the last hours she spent with her mother, Anne Bryan offered a sunny proposal: “Let’s go for a bike ride.” Nancy Winkler hesitated. It was early, she was tired, and as Philadelphia’s city treasurer, she wanted to get to her job. But a glance out the window at the big June sky — and at her beaming daughter, already in her cycling shorts — convinced her. The two pedaled off from their Center City home to Kelly Drive. Some events only seem meaningful in retrospect, but Winkler recognized the beauty in these minutes as they happened. Anne had just finished a successful first year at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and was ready to start hunting for an apartment of her own. Somehow, the ride captured all of this — the sense that spring, and Anne, were both in bloom. The smell of honeysuckle hung in the air, and Anne pedaled briskly, ponytail bouncing, as if chasing the scent.

After the women circled back home, Winkler thought about staying a little longer. Anne, 24, had clothes to donate to the Salvation Army, and was waiting for a longtime friend, Mary Simpson, to join her for a day of thrift-store shopping. Winkler hadn’t seen Simpson in a while, but it was already close to 10 a.m. She pushed ahead to work and hadn’t been there long when one of her employees rushed in with news: “The Salvation Army store just collapsed.”

For Winkler, the words triggered panic, frantic cell-phone calls to Anne with no answer. For Philadelphia, the words marked a signal tragedy in the city’s history. At 10:41 a.m. on June 5, 2013, a Center City building under demolition at 22nd and Market fell over, crushing the Salvation Army thrift store next door. Six people died at the scene, one died in the coming weeks, and 14 were injured, including one woman who lost the entire lower half of her body.

Anne Bryan and Mary Simpson were discovered near the store’s center, next to each other. They couldn’t have been there very long, maybe 20 minutes, before the roof caved in. Nancy Winkler continues to marvel at how easily she might have diverted her daughter’s path. If she had stayed home a little longer, delayed the pair just enough, they might still be alive.

Such stories aren’t unique. In fact, as tales emerged from the rubble, it seemed that chance determined who lived and who died: One employee, 35 and newly engaged, arrived that morning for her first day on the job; another staffer, a Liberian immigrant, felt sick but didn’t skip his shift; a grandmother was in the store for minutes before the roof fell.

Early on, says Winkler, a lot of people defined the collapse in these terms — a random tragic event. Some still do today. But she knows better. And so for the past three years, Winkler and her husband, Jay Bryan, have tried to get others to see the incident the way they do. “This was no accident,” says Nancy Winkler. “This was the predictable result of a series of choices that were made and not made.”

Time and the revelations following the Market Street collapse have proven that. Viewed closely, the tragedy doesn’t indict just its perpetrators — the people who failed to execute a relatively simple demolition job and are now defendants in an upcoming civil trial — but also the government that failed to stop them. It reveals Philadelphia, cash-strapped and eager for development, as a city in which the occasional disaster has traditionally been, and remains, the hidden cost of doing business.

AS A CITY, Philadelphia could easily see the Market Street collapse as an anomaly and move on. Just look around. Business is booming. In the spring of 2015, the Center City District announced that 5.3 million square feet in new residential units, hotel rooms and commercial and retail space was freshly complete or in the pipeline. Keynote projects — the ritzy Market East development, the new 59-story Comcast tower, the renovation of the Divine Lorraine Hotel — tell the story of a city on the move. But as Philadelphia is growing, it’s falling apart.

Seven months after the Market Street collapse, Anne Bryan’s brother, Chris, attended a birthday party on the third floor of a Center City apartment building. He saw a few people gathered outside. A few minutes later, the fire escape fell out from under them. Two people were injured; one man died.

Two months after that, a building under demolition at 3rd and Market also collapsed, filling the street with debris that fortunately injured nothing but a car. In January of 2015, bricks from a nearby parapet fell through the ceiling of the Center City Lululemon store, injuring three. In each case, the number of injuries and fatalities was shaped by chance. But “collapses” are commonplace. According to L&I statistics, there were roughly 1,100 total or partial building collapses in Philadelphia in 2014 — an average of three per day.

L&I spokesperson Karen Guss says the numbers encompass dramatic incidents, like buildings toppling, and small ones, like porch failures. But the numbers reflect exactly what Philadelphia is right now: a vibrant mix of new construction and old buildings, many vacant and in disrepair, yielding plenty to worry about in terms of things that might fall over.

The Market Street collapse was supposed to trigger major changes in the department of licenses and inspections. And Council has passed legislation, mostly targeted toward more rigorous policing of demolitions. Mayor Jim Kenney is also touting a very small increase in the department’s budget. But L&I, a beleaguered unit charged with enforcing building codes, issuing licenses, and inspecting construction and demolition sites, requires far more dramatic investments to right itself — and in Philadelphia, that kind of investment seems unlikely.

Some of the reasons are strictly practical: The city’s poverty rate is more than 25 percent, creating a massive hole in the tax base and outsized demand on city services. Budget season too often looms as a series of tough choices, with schools, libraries and rec centers on the chopping block. L&I is an easy loser in that conversation, its workforce of building inspectors largely invisible unless something bad happens.

The other primary reason L&I remains the underfed child of city government is less savory. “There’s no political will to change it,” says Glenn Corbett, a code enforcement veteran who chaired a commission organized after the collapse to investigate the department. “There’s a political incentive to keep L&I weak. Because to any mayor or Council member, this is the unit that developers and businesspeople are going to complain about. And so a lot of moves were made after the collapse, but not a lot changed.”

The man who fell to his death at the birthday party, 22-year-old Albert Suh, should have been safe; the fire escape wasn’t overloaded. But L&I is. New agency commissioner David Perri admits his inspectors currently shoulder workloads about two times too large, and the limited new funding Kenney proposed will only keep the agency running in place. One of the most important functions L&I performs is demolition, knocking down buildings deemed “imminently dangerous.” But Perri can’t demolish dangerous buildings as fast as he discovers new ones, given a backlog of about 250 all year long.

Perri, a licensed professional engineer, is the first truly qualified L&I commissioner in more than 20 years. Building inspectors are among the city’s most skilled employees, undergoing 18 months of training and certifications. But if money connotes respect, they don’t get enough of either: The annual rate of pay for city building inspectors lags roughly $11,000 behind that of counterparts even in smaller cities, like Milwaukee. The discrepancy is large enough that Perri admits that filling the open positions, and keeping them that way, will be a challenge.

What this all adds up to is Philadelphia’s Potemkin moment: The new construction is grand, but this city sits atop a shoddy foundation of social ills and budget problems. Corbett cites the collapse as the largest, most dramatic manifestation of a danger that has long been with us, and the falling fire escape as another example: “This happened on Rittenhouse Square,” he says, “one of the wealthiest sections in Philadelphia. This should never have happened. But it did because nobody looked.”

Corbett’s commission recommended that the fire department assume control of fire code safety, as is common in other cities. The report it published cites the fire escape collapse and a food truck explosion in Feltonville, which killed two people, as causing fatalities that could have been averted: “In order for fire code enforcement to be most successful, it must be performed on a routine basis. Currently, fire code inspections in the City are conducted on an ad-hoc basis, often complaint-driven.”

The language is cool and reasoned, but the content is insane. Essentially, fire code safety has been on us, the citizens. The new Perri-led L&I is working with the fire department to beef up inspections — some classes of buildings, like high-rises, are already subject to annual evaluation — but the dedicated 50-person unit Corbett’s committee report called for isn’t on the docket. Nancy Winkler often refers to the Market Street collapse as a “third-world-style disaster,” and this is an example of how third-world conditions are sewn into the fabric of life here — bridges crumbling, filthy streets, hundreds of shooting deaths each year, some of the worst poverty rates in the nation. Given our problems, a weak L&I is something that most of us have been prepared to accept. Citizens fight for pools, libraries and rec centers; no one fights for city building inspectors. But then, most of us don’t end up mourning a child.

Anne Bryan with her parents and brother in Alaska, 2006. | Photograph provided by Nancy Winkler.

Anne Bryan with her parents and brother in Alaska, 2006. | Photograph provided by Nancy Winkler.

HERE IS WHAT Winkler and Bryan know about how their daughter died. Witnesses said the collapse sounded like an explosion, which Anne must have heard. When she was discovered under a pile of debris, she was curled into a fetal position, with her arms up over her head. The medical examiner’s report listed her injuries: bleeding eyelids, rib fractures on both sides, bruised lungs and a torn liver. She died a slow, painful death by asphyxiation. The rubble crushed her so tightly that she couldn’t expand her lungs to breathe. Most of the victims died in the same manner. “I’ve tried to imagine it,” says Bryan. “I can’t.”

In strictly demographic terms, the wall that collapsed on the Salvation Army building fell across most of the city, uniting people of strikingly different backgrounds:

Borbor Davis was a 68-year-old Liberian immigrant who found a wife and a spiritual home in a Lansdowne church.

Kimberly Finnegan was 35, newly engaged and seeking a job with the SPCA.

Roseline Conteh, 52, was an immigrant from Sierra Leone, a teacher who fled the civil war there to leverage a better life in America for her five children.

Juanita Harmon was a 75-year-old grandmother of nine who stopped by the Salvation Army to gift-shop just after paying her PECO bill up the block.

Danny Johnson, 59, a West Philly truck driver, lived for 23 days after he was pulled from the rubble before his heart failed.

And Mary Simpson was just getting started, at 24, in a career as an audio engineer when she died next to her friend.

Of all those who lost family members in the collapse, Winkler and Bryan have been the most public, a role for which they were uniquely well positioned. Winkler’s father was career Army, raising her with a sense of obligation. “We weren’t allowed to walk past a piece of litter on the sidewalk,” she says. “It was our duty to pick it up.” Winkler spent 28 years working for Public Financial Management, rising to partner in a firm that specialized in assisting governments and nonprofits with their finances. When Michael Nutter asked her to serve as city treasurer in 2010, she felt like “giving back.”

Together, she and Bryan, a civil engineer, raised their kids with the same sense of responsibility. The family’s volunteer projects included making improvements to the Cynwd Trail, where Winkler and her daughter planted cherry trees, learning how to preserve their delicate root systems. “I was proud,” says Winkler. “She never went through the motions. It was hard work, a great day. It meant something to her.”

Winkler and Bryan have spent the past few years looking for ways to carry her spirit forward. “I think,” says Winkler, “when a parent loses a child, you want something meaningful to come out of it, to make the world a better place in some way.”

In this sense, their own need compelled them to get involved — to investigate the causes that were obvious and those that might otherwise have been obscured.

THREE YEARS LATER, what we know about the Market Street collapse is that it was entirely preventable. Numerous people, exercising a basic degree of care, could have avoided the crisis at multiple points.

Griffin Campbell, the contractor on the job, was spectacularly unqualified. The excavator operator he hired, Sean Benschop, tested positive for weed a few hours after the collapse. Those two men — the lowest ranking and comparatively poorest and the only minorities among those responsible — were the only two indicted. They’re now in jail, serving minimum sentences of 15 and seven years, respectively.

According to a report filed by Richard Roberts, an engineer subsequently enlisted by city prosecutors, Campbell went about the demolition in exactly the wrong way. The safety concern was obvious: The Hoagie City building under demolition was a four-story structure that shared a party wall with the single-story Salvation Army. To protect the smaller building, Campbell needed not to demolish the Hoagie City shop so much as to deconstruct it, piece by piece, from the top down — roof, walls, floor. Campbell, however, worked from the inside out — removing internal floor joists, which he intended to sell for salvage, while leaving the dangerous shared wall standing tall and growing progressively less stable.

The entire case is set to proceed, this September, to a mammoth civil trial featuring 19 defendants, 21 plaintiffs, and a cast of big-shot attorneys, including the “Master of Disasters,” Robert Mongeluzzi, for the aggrieved, and peerless 90-year-old Dick Sprague for the defense. The argument will largely boil down to one of size. The defense will claim that the circle of responsibility is small, limited mostly to Campbell and Benschop. The plaintiffs will assert that the blame goes well beyond them.

At the time Campbell was hired, by a corporation chiefly owned by Richard Basciano, he had no demo equipment, employees, insurance or relevant experience. All he had was Plato Marinakos, an architect retained by Basciano’s firm, STB, to oversee the job. Campbell has testified that Marinakos walked him through the bidding process and requested a $5,000 kickback for his trouble — an allegation that Marinakos has denied.

The evening before the collapse, Marinakos visited the site. He later testified that he took one look at the shared wall, now unmoored, and knew that it was imminently dangerous. But he took none of the obvious steps — like notifying the Salvation Army, the police or L&I — to prevent disaster. What the Penn-trained architect did do was retain an attorney, immediately post-collapse, to negotiate an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony.

Basciano, a longtime real estate speculator and former porn merchant who owned Philly’s last adult movie theater on that same block, wears a black hat in this saga as well. Campbell’s winning bid was $112,000, roughly one third that of his nearest competitor. That number should have raised flags, but Basciano’s firm, STB, hired him anyway. In addition to employing a contractor on the cheap, the businessman seems to have been in a dangerous rush.

Basciano, 90, doesn’t use email, leaving that to his employees. But in emails among his representatives, the Salvation Army and Marinakos, two themes jump out — a general awareness that the job posed serious safety concerns, and Basciano’s impatience with the pace of demolition.

According to one email in late April, Basciano had walked by the site and was “SHOCKED” to see the building still standing. A couple of weeks later, Basciano’s reps emailed the Salvation Army, seeking roof access to speed up and make safe work of the dangerous job. The next day, STB property manager Thomas Simmonds emailed the Salvation Army, warning that “continued delays in responding pose a threat to life, limb and public safety.”

A week later, with negotiations still stalled, one of STB’s associates emailed Simmonds to suggest he reach out to the Salvation Army again to secure roof access. Simmonds declined, writing, “Waste more time? Wait for someone to be killed?” Yet he pressed on: “You can do what you want but I am NOT backing off with these people. … I have to look after the interests of the Owners — Richard and his daughters.” These emails speak to what might have been. If the Salvation Army had provided access, even an unqualified contractor like Campbell might have been able to do the job. With scaffolding erected on the store, his workers could have pushed brick from the shared wall into Basciano’s lot. If the Salvation Army had taken these emails seriously, it might have closed the store, or at least warned store employees or customers. But it did none of that.

Conversely, if Basciano’s firm had simply waited for roof access, its planned residential high-rise would have been delayed, but with some patience, his building would be operational right now. The Market Street victims would still be alive.

From left: L&I inspector Ron Wagenhoffer; landlord Richard Basciano. | Photos, from left: Facebook; Linda Rosier/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images.

From left: L&I inspector Ron Wagenhoffer; landlord Richard Basciano. | Photos: Facebook; Linda Rosier/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images.

The emails go on, describing how “Richard” kept an eye on things, expressing pleasure when the pace of work increased. Most incredibly, Basciano came by again on the morning of the collapse. By this time, Campbell had removed so many joists that the shared wall, entirely unsupported, leaned outward over the Salvation Army building like a hammer poised above a nail. But there was to be no last-minute reprieve for the victims of the Market Street collapse and their families. Basciano didn’t move to save anyone, and the emails figure to comprise a huge part of the upcoming trial.

There is a great deal of money at stake. Basciano, who owned the Hoagie City property, is said in development circles to have set aside up to $30 million to handle a settlement or verdict. The Salvation Army charity is revealed in public documents to be worth around $10 billion. But there is a bigger circle of culpability, which the civil case is unlikely to address, and which the emails capture best by what they don’t say.

There were no hurried emails from STB expressing fear that L&I might move to shut the dangerous job down. In fact, on May 22nd, STB’s Simmonds even wrote the city to complain about the lack of access to the Salvation Army’s roof: “This nonsense must end before someone is seriously injured or worse. Those are headlines none of us want to see or read.” (Attorneys for Basciano, Marinakos and the Salvation Army, all citing a gag order in the civil case, declined to be interviewed.)

Simmonds wanted city commerce director Alan Greenberger to intervene. But Greenberger received an email about an hour later from a separate STB representative suggesting that talks with the Salvation Army were continuing. He decided he didn’t need to be involved, and though L&I was under his supervision, he didn’t notify inspectors there of any potential problem.

Even as the agency responsible for structural safety was completely ineffectual, regular citizens — contractors, an architect — noticed the growing danger. “You could see,” says roofer Bill Roam, “that they were doing it all wrong. They were throwing internal floor joists out of the windows, which was making that whole building less stable.”

There was no deluge of calls to city officials, however, because witnesses expected that the job — demolitions are inherently dangerous, and this one was in a prominent location — was already very much on L&I’s radar. Roam even turned to co-workers and joked about how the Hoagie City job was going to get shut down. What nobody understood was that L&I was so perilously undermanned that through the Market Street collapse, it was about to reach the lowest ebb of an already troubling history.

PERHAPS A MONTH after her daughter’s death, Nancy Winkler hand-delivered a letter to Salvation Army headquarters, proposing that the former store site be turned into a public memorial. “I wanted to make sure,” says Winkler, “that nobody could ever forget this happened — or why.”

She and Bryan also had a meeting with then-mayor Michael Nutter, at which they received his support for their memorial idea. These first moves happened behind the scenes, but Winkler says she and her husband realized they would need to be “more public” if they wanted to reach their goals. So in September, at a press conference in the offices of their attorney, they announced just what they were seeking: justice, via the civil case; the public memorial, which quickly garnered 6,000 signatures of support through an online petition; and, finally, their most ambitious goal, to “make sure it never happens again,” which placed L&I in their crosshairs.

Winkler and Bryan called for a blue-ribbon committee of independent experts — the committee Glenn Corbett ultimately chaired — to assess L&I and recommend changes. Both parents knew the initiative might put Winkler in an awkward position, knocking the same mayor who’d hired her. But by this time, they were determined to foment a change that was long overdue.

The previous month, former L&I commissioner Bennett Levin, then 73 years old and 18 years removed from his service to the city, had testified to City Council that the Market Street collapse was rooted in Philadelphia history: the One Meridian Plaza blaze in 1991, which killed three firefighters; the death of Judge Berel Caesar, killed in 1997 after a piece of a city parking garage fell; the 2000 collapse of Pier 34 on the Delaware River, which killed three young women; a 2012 fire at an abandoned industrial building in Kensington in which two firefighters died.

Each of these tragedies, said Levin, speaks in some way to a culture of lax enforcement. For instance, L&I had cited the building that killed Judge Caesar as a danger yet failed to protect the public. In the Kensington fire, L&I cited the tax-delinquent owners for multiple fire-safety violations, yet never pressed the matter into court. One Meridian’s owners were allowed by L&I to delay outfitting the 38-story office tower with comprehensive sprinkler systems.

The testimony moved Winkler and Bryan, who grew emboldened as time passed. At a City Council hearing and in subsequent interviews, Winkler suggested that L&I might have stopped the collapse before it happened. The couple also co-authored an Inquirer editorial urging new qualifications for the position of L&I commissioner, demanding that the position be filled by a licensed professional engineer. Further, the collapse revealed “a crying need for significantly improving L&I … where staffing levels have been significantly reduced.”

While the tone remained polite, the words were slaps at Nutter’s decision-making. As a candidate, he had promised to “blow up” L&I. At the time, his primary focus on easing the process for developers, homeowners and businesspeople appeared to fit with his reformer brand; L&I was confusing, offering 100 different categories of licenses. But once in office, he pressed the plunger, cratering almost 20 percent of the department’s staff. He also reframed the agency’s mission, shifting it out of the department of public safety, where it sat alongside police and fire, to the portfolio of the city’s director for economic development.

In this instance, for starters, the city’s failure to prevent the collapse traces right back to Nutter’s choices. “Not blaming Alan Greenberger,” says Levin, the former commissioner at L&I, “but if a deputy in charge of public safety gets a message describing risk, they’re far more likely to send someone over there.”

Further, by the time of the collapse, Nutter had appointed two successive L&I commissioners with no engineering experience: then-32-year-old Fran Burns, a former director for the Manayunk Community Development Corporation, and Carlton Williams, a former supervisor in the streets department. The deep staffing cuts they enacted also bore direct ties to the collapse.

Ron Wagenhoffer, a city inspector, had been out to visit the Hoagie City site three times prior to when Campbell started compromising the building’s internal stability. He found nothing out of the ordinary. A few weeks later, after Campbell started chucking floor joists out the windows, the building crumbled. Wagenhoffer was devastated, telling colleagues he wished he’d done more. But at the time, he and his co-workers each had roughly 700 active permits to track — about three times what their counterparts in other cities have.

Wagenhoffer simply had no time. But one week after the collapse, unable to sleep, plagued by remorse and fear that he might be blamed, he shot and killed himself. “The number of inspections he had is completely absurd,” says one L&I staffer, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

This logic hasn’t gotten enough attention, but if Wagenhoffer’s duties had been the same as those of inspectors in other cities, there might be no tragedy to recount. “If we had a reasonable workload, if the department was adequately staffed, who knows?” says one old colleague, who also requested anonymity. “Maybe he does go back.”

In fact, if Greenberger had told L&I of the dispute between STB and the Salvation Army, what Wagenhoffer saw inside the building would have been dramatic — a contractor who had no idea what he was doing, and workers undermining the stability of a building poised over an occupied shop.

Of course, the private individuals and entities involved had a legal responsibility to take the building down safely. They failed. But the city failed, too, abdicating its responsibility to police them. L&I still existed, but in practice, any meaningful oversight had been rolled away.

Winkler allows that going to work in government offices “wasn’t easy” after her daughter’s death. But she, her husband and Nutter seemed to enter into a kind of truce. He acquiesced to the memorial, and when he stalled on forming the committee they’d called for, Winkler and Bryan spoke up in the press. Coincidence or not, Nutter moved shortly afterward. But there was never any kind of outburst or open debate.

Perhaps they had each other over a barrel. Nutter could hardly challenge a grieving mom, and if he had, the facts assured he would have lost. For her part, Winkler shied away from aggression. “I wanted to do what Anne would have wanted,” she says, “and she used to come home from the Friends school and talk about Quaker principles.” Staying engaged and working through disagreements meant something to Anne; in turn, that meant something to Winkler.

Nutter failed to respond to a request to be interviewed for this story. He would likely prefer to put the collapse behind him. For Winkler and her husband, the anniversary of the tragedy arrives every morning, when they awake to remember that their daughter is gone. “I think the Mayor acted throughout this with a lot of grace,” says Winkler. “But I’m talking about change.”

THIS SPRING, there were signs of hope for L&I. During budget hearings, a cadre of Council members started building a case to give the agency more money than Mayor Jim Kenney had allotted in his budget. Citing a long-established state law, they argued that the city can recalibrate its permitting fees — which haven’t been raised in 10 years — to cover the costs of whatever building safety functions it needs to perform. Seemingly overnight, L&I could be appropriately staffed, funded and maintained.

This discussion would never have occurred without the Market Street collapse or the efforts in its aftermath by Winkler and Bryan. The entire debate was fueled and shaped by the independent committee they’d called for — its report acting as a ruler to measure the distance between our current, underperforming L&I and what’s merely standard in other cities.

Of course, this is the kind of “win” Anne Bryan’s parents never hoped for while she was still alive. But such is their life now. This past spring, they experienced another sorry victory when ground was broken on the memorial site. The ceremony included 10 people — family members of the victims and an emotional Mayor Kenney — with silver shovels decorated in yellow bows. Winkler spoke for the families: “By remembering those who died here, the memorial will serve as an enduring reminder that no land development, parking lot, office tower and the profit that they may generate is more precious than human life.”

When complete, the memorial will include three black granite slabs bearing the names of the victims. Winkler and Perri, the new L&I commissioner, are hatching plans to bring inspectors there during training, to ground them in the importance of what they do. But the memorial site, which might instead have been reserved for some new building, also figures to generate quiet grumbling, perhaps forever.

Comments pages on news stories about the memorial include a fair share of heckling, often of the If every public tragedy necessitated a memorial, there’d be no land left variety. “The memorial is stupid,” one prominent local business executive told me, requesting anonymity because of the “taboo” nature of his criticism. “The city needs the tax revenue, the city needs the space. I’m sorry Nancy Winkler’s daughter died, but c’mon. The tragedy can be remembered with a plaque.”

Winkler seems impervious to such criticism. And from her point of view, the carping only serves as evidence the memorial is needed. After all, everyone who holds any degree of responsibility for the Market Street collapse acted to get, keep or protect financial assets at the expense of basic safety. The city government gutted L&I, the department responsible for preventing such tragedies, to save money and reframe it as a revenue driver, again placing dollars over safety. And now seven people are dead in this one incident alone, along with Wagenhoffer, and we don’t want a memorial because we still need to build buildings and generate tax revenue above all else?

Jay Bryan and Nancy Winkler at the Market Street memorial groundbreaking in April. | Photograph courtesy of Michael Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer

Jay Bryan and Nancy Winkler at the Market Street memorial groundbreaking in April. | Photograph courtesy of Michael Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer.

Winkler spent a career helping governments manage their finances. But she’s working from a different ledger now. At the memorial dedication, she held up well. She presented herself without any makeup, as if eager to show off the lines in her face. Her voice was strong, but there were moments, in a look or an embrace with her husband, when the loss seemed fresh.

A day after their daughter’s death, Winkler and Bryan drove to West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd. A staff member there guided them on a tour of possible burial sites. When they got to the second one, Winkler knew they didn’t need to see anything else. The grave was near the top of a hill, overlooking the Cynwyd Trail. She hadn’t thought about the proximity of the cemetery to the trail where she and her family had volunteered. But now she pointed it out to her husband: At the foot of the hill, where she and Anne had planted them, were the cherry trees.

The moment measured the depth of their loss: Nancy Winkler was about to help her daughter find an apartment. Instead, she and her husband were about to do the only thing left them, and obtain for her this meaningful grave.

Published as “’This Was No Accident’” in the June issue of Philadelphia magazine.