Seventy-eight-year-old Evelyn Rush sat on the edge of her bed yesterday at the Quality Inn Hotel on Russell Street. For now, this is her home until city officials help her family and neighbors find another.
She sat rubbing her swollen knees and staring into space.
"I done been through many things in my life. This here is minor. But no matter what happens, the Lord always opens doors," she said.
Thursday the doors of Rush's family's house and two others were closed after a city demolition job damaged their rowhouse on North Mount Street, injuring seven people. City officials decided to level four other houses on North Mount, displacing 15 people.
Although the city is paying for the residents' stay in the hotel, city officials have said that the city's liability for the damages had yet to be decided.
At the time of the incident, Reginald Scriber, director of the neighborhood center for the city's Housing Authority, described it as "a natural thing."
But for Rush and her family, losing a house was anything but natural.
"It felt like the whole house was shaking," Rush said. "It was shaking and moving like the whole roof was going to come through."
Rush brought new appliances for her home two weeks ago.
With tears in her eyes, she said, "the whole wall could have fallen on me. I could have been dead. I just thank the Lord nobody was killed."
Mary Gardner, 58, was also thankful that the outcome was not much worse. But she said, "I'm mad as hell."
Days ago, Gardner's daughter Tamika Buckson, 22, had asked the demolition crew if the family should move as a precaution after watching cracks in the ceiling become bigger. The crew said that it would "handle [the demolition] well" and there was no need for the family to leave.
"They handled it well, all right," Gardner said. "They handled it well with all them bricks falling on my grandchildren's heads."
Gardner, who previously suffered from a stroke, was not allowed back inside her home to retrieve $200 worth of medicine.
None of the residents was allowed to salvage any of their possessions. Yesterday everything they owned lay buried under piles of bricks.
The upper floors of 11 N. Mount St. had been knocked down.
The only remnants are an olive green backpack clinging to a hook on the side of the wall, a calendar, a birthday card with a bottle of champagne painted in the centerfold, and a note professing the love between a couple scribbled in black marker.
Under the pile of bricks lay a bed spring next to a tawny mattress, clothing, a dusty television and a red plastic playpen.
There is talk of more demolition of the remaining row houses on the same block. For the neighbors, this is all too familiar a sight. There are strings of boarded up houses for blocks.
Among the condemned houses are homes occupied by owners.
Neighbor Marcus Sykes said that the landlord of the houses continues to board up the houses and rents them out in the same deteriorating conditions.
"It's wrong," he said. "It was just so sad to see them go. They just moved around here about three months ago."
Yesterday, City Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III did not offer a plan of action. He said: "We do not plan to leave the families high and dry. But we will be working with the families directly."
Henson declined to say when the residents of North Mount Street might move into new housing or if the city would take responsibility for the damages.
Even with the loss, Evelyn Rush still managed a smile as she and her family and neighbors waited.
Pub Date: 6/21/97