THE DRYWALL in Maggie Davis' porch is ready to be painted. Exposed wall outlets need covers. Wires dangling from the kitchen ceiling are prepped for a new fixture to brighten the floor that her husband installed before the 2013 building collapse at 22nd and Market.
The half-finished projects are a daily reminder of her loss. Borbor Davis, a 68-year-old Liberian immigrant, was working in the basement of the Salvation Army when a three-story wall of an adjacent building being demolished fell onto the thrift store, killing him and five others and injuring 13.
The heartache of losing her best friend in an avoidable accident is unbearable, but so is having to put her mourning on hold to stress over making ends meet.
There's the overdue light bill.
The overdue mortgage.
The constant worry about paying bills with Social Security and a pension from her husband that barely adds up to $1,000 a month. Borbor was the proud breadwinner before he went to work one day and never came back. The children help, but with families of their own they can only do so much. The family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.
"This is not how it was supposed to be," said Davis, 76, as she looked around the modest Delaware County home that she and her husband had been slowly renovating.
Every inch holds a memory.
The kitchen, where every morning she and her husband would have coffee before he took the bus to work.
The spacious living room where, she recalled with a laugh, the couple sometimes would put on African music and dance.
The corners she still expects to see him come around.
"I miss him," she said.
"My days are lonely, very lonely. L-O-N-E-L-Y," she spelled out before her words disappeared into her thoughts.
A few hours before I visited Davis, I had sat in a Philadelphia courtroom as Sean Benschop - the equipment operator who witnesses said was using his excavator to remove parts of the building being demolished and who, tests showed, had marijuana in his system - pleaded guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter and related charges in the building collapse.
I felt for his relatives, some of whom cried quietly as the judge accepted the plea of a man who said he had an eighth-grade education and could not read English.
"He's accepted whatever responsibility he felt he had," his wife, Tynisha Gregory, later said. "That should stand for something."
Perhaps, but no amount of jail time for him or for Griffin Campbell, the contractor who has been in prison since 2013 awaiting trial, will bring back the dead or make life easier for Mariya Plektan, 52, who lost the bottom half of her body after she was buried in the rubble for 13 hours.
What would mean something is for everyone responsible to be held accountable - and that includes Richard Basciano, the owner of the building whose wall flattened the Salvation Army.
While victims of the collapse are left to suffer emotionally and financially, Basciano not only has been free, he's prospered.
It's good to be king, even a former king of Times Square porn. According to the Inquirer, the slippery property-owner who has yet to answer for his part in the catastrophe has unloaded all his Center City properties for more than $22 million.
And an elderly widow can't even pay her electric bill.
I've written plenty about the lopsided justice in this case. This is the third in a series of columns that before too long could become a book. Let's call it Where the [F-bomb] is Richard Basciano?
The first time I tried to get answers from him, in 2013, I was unceremoniously shown the door at his swanky Symphony Home residence. Last year I dropped off a letter for him at the same inhospitable location, and never heard back.
Why stalk a ghost? Because Basciano was the one who entered into a contract with Campbell to demolish the building next to the Salvation Army. And Campbell in turn hired Benschop, a day laborer who was just doing as he was told, according to his attorney. And Plato Marinakos, an architect hired by Basciano, was not criminally charged and has been granted immunity.
You see the chain of command here, the chain of culpability?
And yet, justice just leap-frogged right over the guy with the most power and money to the two men with the least of both.
In a statement released before Benschop's hearing, city Treasurer Nancy Winkler and her husband, Jay Bryan, whose 24-year-old daughter Anne Bryan, died in the collapse, said:
"We will not rest until everyone responsible for Anne's death and the deaths of the other victims are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We continue to wait for all those responsible to break their silence and answer questions about their outrageous conduct leading up to the fatal building collapse."
Meanwhile, in Darby Borough, a widow waits for the day when she can mourn without the worry of losing the home she once shared with the love of her life.
"I'm sad and angry," Davis said. "I'm sad because I miss him. I'm angry that I'm alone in life.
"I'm trying. I am, but everything stopped when my husband died."
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