MAYBE IT was divine intervention.
Church members doing a weekly cleanup of a North Philadelphia block discovered a newborn baby girl inside a cardboard box on a sidewalk yesterday morning.
The infant, just hours old, was rushed to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, where she was listed in good condition yesterday afternoon.
"I just got back from vacation, so I wasn't going to come [do the community cleanup]. But my wife said I should go, because [today] is trash day," said Robert Taylor, 65, of Hunting Park, who found the box with his friend Homer Keller.
"It's Christmastime, but this is a horrible incident any day. For someone to do this to a child, it just hurts."
As police sleuthed to find the person who abandoned the tot on 27th Street near Huntingdon, they marveled at the miracle that she was so quickly discovered in an area of vacant lots and abandoned, blighted buildings.
"Very lucky," said Lt. Anthony McFadden of the special-victims unit.
"It's cold out, dreary, wet. I understand there's issues [that might have prompted the birth mother to not want the child]. But she could have [brought the infant] to a hospital, a school, [alert] any adult, call 9-1-1," rather than dump her like trash on the sidewalk.
Taylor said that he and Keller arrived on 27th Street near Huntingdon about 9 a.m. for a weekly cleanup as members of Heavenly Hall in West Philadelphia.
They spotted the box in front of the Rainbow Daycare and Learning Center on the corner, but left it there for an hour while they bagged garbage on Huntingdon Street, he said.
After Taylor left to get more cleaning supplies, Keller grabbed the box and carried it toward their trash pile on 27th near Sergeant.
As he walked, he heard faint cries.
He quickly discovered a naked newborn, her umbilical cord still attached, lying in a tangle of blankets and a black-and-pink polka-dot bathrobe inside the shabby cardboard box. He called 9-1-1.
Taylor returned to the block to find it encircled with yellow police tape.
Agitated by his find, Keller left with police to answer questions at the station.
Watching crime-scene workers gingerly bag the bathrobe and other evidence, Taylor shook his head.
"There are so many people who would love this child, who would take it and raise it up," said Taylor, a father of three and grandfather of nine.
Investigators scoured city hospitals for any women who might have sought treatment after giving birth, but found none. They also found no surveillance cameras on the block.
McFadden urged the public to help solve the crime. The baby is a light-skinned black or Hispanic girl who weighs about 5 pounds, he said. Alongside her in the box were: the bathrobe, a large brown Casual Corner sweater, a peach-colored towel and a red-and-white houndstooth-pattern blanket.
"If anyone knows someone who was pregnant yesterday but not today - and there's no baby - please contact us," he said.
Tipsters can reach detectives at 215-685-3252. The baby will remain under observation at the hospital for 48 hours, then will be placed with a foster family, said Alicia Taylor, spokeswoman for the city Department of Human Services. The baby's fate afterward is murky, at least until the birth parents are identified.
Taylor said that her agency would monitor the child's progress, and that a judge would decide who will raise her.