EAST GARFIELD PARK — Neighbors are raising money to help a family get back on their feet after part of their home collapsed in East Garfield Park, killing one man and injuring two others.
The home at 3418 W. Jackson Blvd. was a haven for four generations of the owner’s family. In the early morning hours April 12, bricks from the top of the building fell, causing the porch to collapse. Three men who were sitting on the porch were trapped underneath the heavy stone.
Anthony Wright, 53, was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital and pronounced dead, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Two other men, ages 68 and 32, were also injured in the collapse, one with critical crush injuries, and the other with a broken leg and back injury, fire officials said.
Because of the collapse and the building’s condition, the city ordered the building to be torn down. That left the family, including the injured men and building owner Katie Simmons, without a place to stay.
Neighbor Marcus White launched a GoFundMe to support the two men injured in the collapse and to help the family find stable shelter so they can start over. The family has lived there for 30 years, he said.
“They lost a family member. This isn’t a slum landlord. It’s a family member grieving other family members,” March White said.
The building has a history of code violations, according to the Tribune.
Simmons is a hardworking nurse who turned her home into the lynchpin that held together her family, Marcus White said. The collapse was an accident and Simmons maintained the century-old building as best she could, even when repairs were costly, White said. Simmons hired contractors over the winter to install a new roof, permit records show.
The city had a court-appointed receiver stabilize the façade of the building to prevent damage to the neighboring buildings until it could be demolished.
“This is the first time she’s without a home,” Marcus White said. “She went to work every single day. That’s her home. … She had kids from her other family members living with them. She was like a mother for her whole family over there.”
Neighbors are pulling together to help the family that lived in the house since there is a long history of kinship on the block, said Sarah White, who is Marcus White’s grandmother. Residents were once organized in a block club that wielded considerable influence in the area, Sarah White said.
“We used to get rid of dope houses. We kept the area around here safe,” she said.
Marcus White has known the family living next door his entire life. The neighbors have been close-knit for generations, and the area is “the type of block that you know everybody’s kids, everybody’s family,” White said.
He heard the collapse and ran to help his friends and neighbors. Marcus White said he worked with others to dig the victims out of the bricks, rubble and massive concrete slabs that had buried them, he said.
Wright, who died from the collapse, was “a good father” who enjoyed spending time on the stoop with his neighbors and family where they would they would “talk about sports, shoot the breeze, listen to old school music, barbecue,” Marcus White said.
Wright kept an eye on the streets to make sure nothing dangerous happened on the block, and he looked out for all his neighbors, Marcus White said.
“If it’s street cleaning, he’d call around to let you know to move your car. All the neighbors are like that,” Marcus White said.
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