On Monday, I had to go to Germantown on the Route 23 bus. I noticed a whole bunch of television camera folks and their connected reporters setting up at the corner of Germantown & Allegheny.
I never used to pay a whole lot of attention to that corner, mostly because it’s hard to get worked up about what is basically a vacant lot with some houses nearby. It was just a stop on the 23 to me before.
Were it not for the fact that a couple of knuckleheads did something stupid, which became something tragic, and ended up making that corner significant because of the stuffed animals, balloons, candles and other memorabilia that’s been left to show the grief of a stricken community, I probably still wouldn’t had paid much attention to it.
But they did. And it is.
Three lives were lost, and the people who are still alive; a mother who doesn’t know her children are gone yet, a woman who was just doing her job and a neighborhood filled with people who are still trying to figure out why someone would mow down a group of people just trying to raise money for a community garden, will never be the same.
On Friday, Keisha Williams, Thelma Brown and Williams’ three kids – Joseph Reed, 10, Terrence Moore, 7 and Keierra Williams, 15 – were selling fruit at a table for their church on the corner of Germantown and Allegheny, something that they did every week.
Meanwhile at 6th & Cumberland, a real-estate agent finishing a meeting went to her car to leave and continue her day. She was carjacked, sexually assaulted, and taken on the joy ride from hell.
A blown tire and a jumped curb brought these two groups of people together … and tore the lives of a whole lot of people apart.
Two men are in custody, Jonathan Rosa, 19 and Cornelius Crawford, 24. They have been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse.
Rosa and Crawford are currently being held without bail in Health-Services Wing the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, which is good for a couple of reasons: One, prison has a hierarchy. If you’re in for murder, you’re a rock star. But if you’re in for murdering kids, you’re a scene from the HBO series “Oz”.
And two, if Rosa’s mother hadn’t turned him in, and US Marshals hadn’t picked up Crawford before the streets found them, law enforcement would have to pick up what was left. When church ladies start talking to you in Walgreen about the punishments these guys should get, and the phrase “death penalty” comes rolling out, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Former Philadelphia 76ers great Charles Barkley is paying for the funerals for Joseph, Terrance and Keierra. Their mother, Williams, is still in a medically induced coma. The realtor and Brown are still recovering from their injuries.
But what about the rest of us?
Let’s keep it real. We pay attention to stuff like this because it’s outrageous. It offends our sensibilities and our comfort level.
But each individual thing – the carjacking, the sexual assault, and the murder – happens in Philadelphia at least once a week. It shouldn’t have to combine in a steaming pile like this to get our attention.
If we don’t start to pay attention; to demand more of our leaders; and to demand more of ourselves; the stuffed animals, candles and balloons at the corner of Germantown & Allegheny will mean nothing.
The victims of this terrible tragedy deserve more than that.
Education Works, a nonprofit housed at Germantown & Allegheny, has started a fund to help the Williams family. If you’d like to donate, contact Kim Alexander, human relations director for Education Works, at (215) 221-6937.