This article was originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on May 19, 1985.
It was something as simple as Robert Benson sitting on his porch, listening to the Phillies on a breezy summer night, a cigar tucked comfortably between his lips.
Or the irresistible smell of spaghetti and fried chicken, coming from Carrie Foskey's kitchen as she prepared one of those legendary meals that inevitably would feed half the block.
It was children obeying the unwritten rule of not leaving the front steps after the street lights came on at night.
And the games played with milk bottle tops on chalk grids drawn in the street, with a skull painted in the center that the kids called the ''forbidden zone."
It was a neighborhood.
It was home.
Two streets, side by side — the 6200 blocks of Osage Avenue and Pine Street — streets the residents viewed as a warm and friendly haven in a large and sprawling city. Safe. Snug.
Until MOVE came.
Then, about 2 1/2 years ago, the dark times began. A group of people with braided dreadlocks and a philosophy that neighborhood residents could never comprehend moved into the house at 6221 Osage. And little by little, the neighborhood that had held together for more than six decades began to bend and ultimately break.
And, finally, on a single fiery night, it died.
Until that night — viewed from afar, in an aerial photograph or through the tunnel of a telephoto camera lens — it seemed like any other middle-class swath of the city — a series of rowhouses with flat roofs and uniform windows.
"Loose colonial-revival style," city historians described it.
But behind the photographs was a distinct and proud urban neighborhood, bound by sturdiness and stability, nurtured by spirit and laughter and traditions, kept alive by one simple, but essential, fact: This was a place where people wanted to live.
It was the sound of Christmas carols, playing over a loudspeaker during the holiday season. And the 42d birthday party that Oris Thomas threw for himself and 200 friends last July because no one ever had thrown one for him.
It was the time that Kimberly Foskey put her sister in a duffel bag and rolled her down the steps ("She was gettin' on our nerves," she recalled with a laugh) and the time that residents each chipped in $50 to buy new street lamps.
"In our neighborhood, every household had certain patterns," said Virginia Sanders, who lived at 6216 Pine St., and everyone knew one another's patterns. "You got up at a certain time, and you had your coffee or your tea. You did your wash every Monday or every Tuesday. People had a pattern to their lives. You could do your own thing and nobody would pry into your business.
"But there was still this strong, wonderful sense of community."
Along the way, there were fights and jealousies and cliques, as in any neighborhood. There were complaints about crime and it was true that just about everyone had three locks on the door. But it hung together, and even after many children on the block grew up, the closeness stayed.
Ever since 1916, when E. A. Wilson, the rowhouse king of Philadelphia, designed the first homes on Osage Avenue, a neighborhood had lived and thrived and survived.
So durable was the neighborhood, so lasting, that even 2 1/2 years ago, no one saw the darkness coming.
At first, there was even sympathy for the MOVE children, who wore short pants on the coldest of winter days and knocked at doors, asking for food. This was new to Osage Avenue, which was relatively unaccustomed to poverty.
Gradually, the sympathy turned to puzzlement as the residents saw the children rummaging through garbage cans, in some cases eating the food out of pets' bowls.
Then, about a year ago, came the bullhorn and the incessant, screaming rages of MOVE members for hours on end.
"They could go on for hours on that loudspeaker system of theirs," recalled Marguerite Walker, of 6217 Osage. "Sometimes they would start at 3 in the afternoon and they would stay on there until 1 o'clock at night. Different times they would come on. But you know, with that kind of thing you are tense all the time. You are just always wondering when it is going to come on.
"So you never relax."
But the bullhorn was only the beginning. There were the barrels of raw meat that MOVE members fed their dogs. And the smell of cat urine that hung in the air. And the need for residents to dry their laundry indoors to avoid the flies that fed on the garbage and waste of the MOVE house. And the foul stink of what residents believed to be human excrement and unwashed bodies.
And then MOVE built the bunker on the roof. And nailed boards over their windows. And stole pets and threatened residents and, finally, drove the neighborhood to beg the city government for help.
The help came last week.
Now, there is nothing left but cinders, and scorched brick walls that reach to the sky like giant tombstones.
And for 24 hours, the residents of the Osage and Pine Street neighborhood watched helplessly, having been evacuated by police, as their homes and belongings became gnarled and melted in the flames and thick dark smoke.
"Everything that we worked so hard for, that we built up over the years, it's all gone," Virginia Sanders said. "We thought we were coming back to our houses. I thought I was coming back to my dinner that I had cooked for Mother's Day."
"I thought I would be going back. You don't take your favorite things with you when you think you are just going around the block. You think, 'Well, I'll take a shower in my house. I'll change my clothes in my house. I'll do all that when I get home.'
"Only we didn't go home. When it was over, there was nothing left to go home to.
"You know that old saying, 'Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.' There will never be another place like that home. Never."
It was as simple as Theodore Price decorating his picture window with ''big, green growing flowers." And the boyhood treks William Benson made with his friends to nearby Cobbs Creek Park to play baseball and football.
It was Christopher Jackson lying on his bed at night, with the breeze coming through the window, having the "assurance of that house, that roof, over your head." And Barbara Welburn rising at 6 a.m., her drapes open, gazing through a window into the soft sunlight of a Sunday morning when hardly anyone on the block was stirring. And the picnics on little tables in the back yards with blankets hoisted over clotheslines to resemble the Arabian nights.
It was the collection of simple things that, over time, brought a group of different people together and gave them a kindred spirit and a common goal.
It was a neighborhood.
Until MOVE came.
Virginia Sanders, 6216 Pine St.:
It was the prettiest block in the world.
What a neighborhood we had. How can I describe it? We had picnics, with little picnic benches and tables and friends all coming over and getting together in the back yards. We had cookouts where we would put blankets up over the clotheslines so that it was like, I don't know, the Arabian nights.
How can you explain those things? It was just a special neighborhood.
All the parties in the back yards. And everybody knowing everybody else. It was always just, "Hi there. Hi there. How are the kids? Has your daughter finished college? How is your garden? Where is your son now?" Everybody knew everybody, it was just one of those neighborhoods. It was wonderful.
I grew up in South Philadelphia. And you know how when you grow up you think about how things should be? Well, I always wanted to live in a place with a few trees and a yard. And when we moved in here, it was like everything I had always dreamed of. It was so beautiful and everybody worked on their houses. We worked to make the whole neighborhood better — and we did. It was a wonderful place to live. You couldn't ask for more.
It was the prettiest place I ever saw. We bought up the houses and we fixed the hell out of them. We fixed them and we fixed them and the neighborhood was beautiful.
The Frankford El was completed in 1906 and with it came the birth of a neighborhood. The El afforded people access to their jobs, and vacant lots were transformed into streets lined with rowhouses.
Many of the homes in the 6200 block of Osage Avenue were designed by Wilson, the architect for more than 25,000 rowhouses in the city. Many of the homes in the 6200 block of Pine Street were also designed by Wilson and were completed by 1919.
They were homes that were made to last, with hardwood floors and moldings around the windows; with modern tile bathrooms and lath and plaster walls.
Their style was colonial revival, according to George Thomas, the head of the Clio Group, a private firm that consults on the restoration of buildings. Each had standard touches: front porches, bay windows on the second floor, cornices and triangular pediments on the roof.
In the beginning, the neighborhood was Jewish, and many who lived there either commuted on the El to Center City or opened small neighborhood businesses.
Over time, it became what is known as a changing neighborhood — but not one changing for the worse. In the 1950s and '60s, as new suburbs developed and attracted a slow migration from the city, the neighborhood of Osage and Pine turned gradually from Jewish to almost all black.
Throughout its history, it was marked by stability and home ownership. People came to buy, not to rent. It was a neighborhood of people who scratched and saved to meet their monthly mortgage payments and to make their homes the jewels of their lives.
According to the 1980 census, median family income in the neighborhood was almost $16,000 and several families earned double that. The six-block area that included the 6200 blocks of Osage and Pine included 551 occupied homes, only 100 of which were rental properties. The mortgages on 203 of the homes had been paid off. For the rest of the homeowners, the median mortgage payment was $221 a month.
Of the 459 families that lived in that area, according to the census, 128 had moved into the neighborhood in the 1950s. An additional 160 had arrived in the 1960s and 108 more in the '70s.
It was a neighborhood where property values mattered, where houses were maintained and kept up with aluminum siding and carpeting on the porches; the kind of neighborhood where residents were willing to work two or even three jobs — on the night shift, the weekend shift or the swing shift — to pay their mortgages and for college educations for their children.
One of those who came to the neighborhood in the 1950s was Sadie Brissett, of 6220 Pine.
"We were the fourth black family to move in," she remembered. "Everyone else was white. It was what you might call a changing neighborhood — Jewish, I think. But it was very comfortable. It was always a nice street."
The last white resident in the 6200 block of Osage was Harry W. Smeck, a 79-year-old widower who lived there for 29 years until Monday.
"When we lived there as children, I can never remember any trouble," Smeck's son, Harry, said last week. "He was well-known," he said of his father. "Of course, now, he stuck out."
Jesse Mae Jackson moved to 6227 Osage in 1953 from Trevose. Amanda Dorsey came to 6216 Osage 28 years ago, paying $8,000 for her two-story home. Lorraine Bond's family purchased their house at 6240 Osage in 1956 and she spent her childhood there. Bennett Walker, of 6217 Osage, went to a real estate agent, saw the house, and made the decision to buy it 20 minutes later in 1959.
Sisters Nadine and Kimberly Foskey also grew up on Osage, and together with a playmate named Yvette Renfrow, they created the kind of joyful chaos that makes a neighborhood become parental and protective.
There was the time Kimberly and Yvette locked Nadine in the toy chest. And the time Yvette jumped on one of the Foskeys' beds and broke it and ran home for protection, only to be sent back to the Foskeys by her mother for a spanking.
Remembering it all last week in a stark cafeteria, the three of them, grown now, reveled in each story, cajoling each other, chiding each other ("Nadine, stop smoking those cigarettes!"), laughing at every detail.
"Her family beat us," said Yvette Renfrow. "My father beat them. It was like one big family."
There was no need for a doctor, said Nadine, because her mother, Carrie, also known as "Dr. Foskey," could pretty much figure a cure for anything. And there was no need for parents to worry about their children because, as she put it, "Everybody watched over you. You could go outside and play."
And there was the wonderful comfort that wherever you went, whatever you did, the neighborhood was always there to come back to.
"I didn't want to leave West Philly," said Nadine Foskey last week. ''Because no matter where you go, that's home."
Oris Thomas, 6250 Osage Ave.:
It's a bad feeling to get in the car and drive down the street and think to yourself, "I can't go home because there ain't no home."
As the Osage and Pine Street neighborhood began to jell during the 1950s and 1960s, many of the houses began to take on a special identity. In each, there was an item or two, some large and some small, some expensive and some not, that evoked for the residents a sense of self and of the neighborhood.
For Christopher Jackson, there were the medical encyclopedias and clergy books, and for Elaine Dotson, there was the copy of Little Women that she bought for her granddaughter.
For Rose Stokes, it was the gold, crushed-velvet sofa with the high back and the curved arms, and the blue-and-white jumper that she dressed her son John in when she brought him home from Lankenau Hospital 22 years ago.
There were the Marine dress blues that had been passed down to William Carter, of 6241 Osage, by his brother, and the 29-inch-deep closet that Earl and Pearl Watkins installed at 6218 Osage.
There was Milton Williams' collection of 2,500 records — "dance, disco, jazz, contemporary" — and 18-year-old Damon Robinson's book of women's telephone numbers.
Some were fond of calling it the Old Society Hill. In the early 1960s, Alfred and Ernestine Grice, of 6238 Pine St., took in Philadelphia Eagles players Ted Dean and Tim Brown as boarders, and they welcomed stars such as Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick into their homes.
"I watched the children grow up in that neighborhood," said Ernestine Grice, who runs a beauty shop. "We don't have any of our own, but we watched the other children in the neighborhood. We shared the kids' successes," she said, reeling off a list of families whose children had grown up, gone to college and established families of their own. "I could go on and on."
During the early 1960s, residents remember, another family moved in to the neighborhood as well.
Residents had varying descriptions for the people who lived at 6221 Osage Ave. Some considered the mother, Louise James, who worked for the phone company, a little bit high and mighty. Others found her intense and prone to outbursts. Her small son, Frank, evoked a more favorable description. He was shy, residents said. He was handsome. He was smart. And he was friendly.
The Jameses were not the most popular family on the block. But they were not unpopular. And no one paid any special attention to them one way or the other.
Until sometime around 1981, when neighbors became aware that Louise James had begun to use the name Louise Africa. Frank, by that time grown up, insisted on the last name of Africa as well.
It also seemed a little bit strange in 1981 when Louise, by herself, took in almost a dozen children.
Where were the parents? people in the neighborhood wondered.
And why were they dressed in nothing but shorts when the weather turned cold?
But neighbors did not want to be overly judgmental, and it was hard not to have their hearts break a little when they would see the children scavenging through garbage cans for food. And when they knocked on doors asking for food, their stomachs distended and puffy, it was almost impossible to say no.
"I gave them chicken, pork chops, whatever I was eating," said James Taylor Sr. "At Christmas, I gave them bags of fruit and candy. They were real bashful. They never spoke, like just to say, 'Hi, Mr. Jim.' You'd think I was the father of 20."
And over time, the house at 6221 Osage would not resemble a house at all, but something strange and different, a house where the second-floor window was barricaded with slabs of wood beams, where the cornices and pediments on the roof were covered over with a bunker made of logs and railroad ties, where the windows with the decorative molding were sealed, a house that couldn't care less about aluminum siding and carpeted porches, but a house, as the residents slowly began to realize, that seemed bent on some kind of destruction.
Bennett Walker, 6217 Osage:
Well, you know, I believe in "live and let live." They weren't a problem at the beginning. At first, they were just a couple of girls with a couple of kids. They weren't bothering anybody.
But then after Frankie came home (from prison) and a couple of other guys came in, then they just started to do whatever they wanted to do. They blocked up the whole back drive (with tires and debris and a dog kennel) so that I couldn’t get my car in there to work on it. They didn’t care.
I don't know that the MOVE people were crazy. Conrad, I think he was extreme, that's all. But Franklin, I believe he went off. Ater a period of time he couldn't get near the door. You'd see him go near it and then he'd go back. He built himself a prison. That's what it was.
When we first moved there (into the neighborhood), then Frankie was about 3, I guess. Everything was totally different then. He wasn't allowed to get dirty. His mother would send him out the door dressed up like he was going to church on Sunday, and he would just sit there on the step. He wasn't allowed to play with the other children. They would be out there playing ball, but he would just sit there quietly on that step. He had to stay clean.
He was a nice boy. The kids in the neighborhood used to go up and talk to him. He was always polite.
It was a total turnaround, what happened later. He was a nice kid up until his teens. And his house was a normal house. In fact, if it looked different from other houses, it was because his mother was such a stickler for cleanliness.
But then she got involved with her brother (the co-founder of MOVE, John Africa) and there was a complete reversal. Frankie — he's between Chuck and Sharon, so he must have been around 15 or 16 then — it started off when he let his hair all grow.
Then it seemed like his big thing was police brutality. Back in the late '70s, the MOVE people would stand out on corners, and it seemed like they were trying to start something up, to provoke something with the police.
After a while, Frankie started playing records (tape recordings) of those harangues. We would hear them on the street. Then he just disappeared.
The next time I saw Frankie was down on 33d Street (the MOVE house in 1978 that was the scene of a shoot out with police). And I was really surprised at the total change from cleanliness and neatness — to that. He just went off. He was so engrossed with that stuff.
When he first came back, I would talk to him, and he would try to tell me his way of thinking. But there was no point for what it was they were trying to do. For the last year or so, it was just like they were going into their shell.
And then Frankie just stopped coming out of the house. And when he'd get on the loudspeaker he would start out calmly, and then he'd build up, just getting more and more excited.
I didn't sympathize with them. But they weren't dumb, and that's a fact. They fortified that whole building by hand. And while all the shooting and everything was going on and there was all that tear gas, they were down in their basement, laughing like little rabbits inside a burrow.
Sometime in 1983, male MOVE members started to live at the house at 6221 Osage.
Soon after their arrival, they began fortifying the house. Over the months, residents saw MOVE members hauling tree trunks from Cobbs Creek Park into their house and heard incessant hammering from inside the house. Later, they would see a fortified bunker go up on the roof and witness MOVE members carrying bushel baskets of dirt to the sidewalk for pickup on trash day.
Some residents of the neighborhood at first did as much as they could to convince themselves that MOVE, like any other group, had a right to live according to its own styles.
But MOVE's creeping effect on the neighborhood was too much to ignore. Slowly, surely, the activities of the group were overtaking the neighborhood, not just distracting it, but dominating it.
At first, the problems were relatively minor, though still disturbing. MOVE members jogged along the flat rowhouse roofs of the block. Guns were brandished.
On one occasion, one of the MOVE children got rough with one of Lucille Green's grandsons and hit him in the ear. She went outside to chastise the boy, and he vaguely apologized.
Then, the darkness intensified. An omnipresent stench rose up from the house, seeping through screen doors and forcing people inside. The MOVE people kept dozens of cats and dogs, but never cared much about controlling them. One day, Bennett Walker was working in the back of his house when he remembered "noticing this smell."
"So I looked around, and then there were all these dead kittens. They were covered with flies. I had to go and throw them out."
In the spring, Pearl Watkins enjoyed drying her wash on a clothesline — she liked the fresh air and sunshine on the clothing. But she feared the flies that fed on the garbage and waste at the MOVE house. So she was forced to hang her clothes to dry in the basement.
Inez Nichols of 6228 Osage remembered the flies as well. "I couldn't open my screen door because for some reason, not the small flies, but those big, green flies — when I opened the door, it seemed like there was a swarm of them that said, 'We're coming in.' So I went around with a fly swatter — banging, banging, banging."
"How did it smell?" asked Shirleen Benson of the odor that clung to the neighborhood. "How does filth smell? It has an odor of its own. Something rotten or dead."
On Mother's Day 1984, a year before their street would be incinerated, a group of neighbors met with members of MOVE to try to reach a solution. There had been complaints about the dog kennel that was cutting off the ability of people to get to their garages through the back alley. There had been complaints about the slats covering all the windows.
They met in front of the home at 6221 Osage. They were not this time, or ever, invited into the house. Several members of MOVE were there, including Mo Africa, Frankie Africa, Conrad Africa and Ramona Africa.
The residents stated their complaints — not in the hope of getting MOVE to change completely, but in the hope that the group might give a little more respect to the needs of others.
After they spoke, members of MOVE responded. Not with any compromises, but with the jarring, insulting, enraged rhetoric that would tear the neighborhood apart. They spoke of their spiritual leader, John Africa, in terms that residents at the meeting had difficulty understanding.
"They told us that John Africa taught this and John Africa taught that, and that we were living all wrong," Inez Nichols said. "We came away believing that they didn't care what we thought, one way or the other."
Theodore Price, 49, 6250 Pine St.:
It seemed like they just created a new type of profanity.
During the summer of 1984 it happened at almost any hour, and it continued for hours and hours.
When members of MOVE wielded the bullhorn or shouted through a loudspeaker system, there was no pre-set quitting time.
As far as Kimberly Foskey could tell, it all "depended on the weather."
The hotter it was and the more uncomfortable everyone in the neighborhood was, the longer the MOVE harangue continued.
Margaret Lane would be in the back of her house at 6234 Pine St. and would hear it.
Nadine Foskey, returning from work at the Printer's Place in Center City, could hear it from several blocks away as she walked back to her home.
Members of MOVE were working the bullhorn again, their angry, obscene and indecipherable words piercing the air for hours on end.
Some, like Margaret Lane, were amazed at the MOVE members' energy: How could any group, radical or not, use the bullhorn for as many hours, nonstop, as they did?
"You have to give some credit to those adults," she said. "They had some kind of energy."
But of all the things MOVE members did, it was the bullhorn that got to people in the neighborhood the most, creating an unbearable psychological torture that caused people to change sleeping habits and turn up the TV full volume to try to drown out the screaming epithets.
"They blocked off the alley — just like a police blockade," said Theodore Price. "When they got on the loudspeakers and they used to say, 'You niggers are going to do what MOVE tells you to do.'"
There were other raging threats as well.
Marguerite Walker remembered one in particular: "On the loudspeaker, Conrad (Africa) used to shout that he was a rapist. He would get on there and say that he used to go into people's houses through their skylights and rape young virgins."
And Yvette Renfrow remembered a threat too, one that she couldn't bring herself to say but had to write down:
"F- you and your family. They don't mean nothing to me."
Carrie Foskey, the woman who was so fond of cooking for her friends in the neighborhood, had to go to sleep during the day because the MOVE bullhorn usually kept her up all night. Her daughter Kimberly, worn down by the screaming taunts, just announced one day, "I can't take it anymore."
"We could handle the stink, the smell, the cats and dogs," Kimberly said. ''But the bullhorn . . . " But she didn't leave.
Pearl Watkins, who lived across the street from the MOVE house on Osage, was a religious woman. And the things she heard MOVE members shout made her shudder.
"It attacked me in a way, just to hear it. I prayed about it. I talked to the Lord and asked for some change. I asked him, 'How could these people become like this?'"
The neighbors groped for a compromise — anything to stop the nonstop stream emanating from the MOVE house hour after hour.
When, one day last year, MOVE members announced over the bullhorn that they were planning to stay on the bullhorn for the next 24 hours straight, Se Kou Camara, 33, who lived at 6238 Osage, had had enough.
He went to the MOVE house, angry, but trying to be as fair as possible. He offered them what he thought was a fair deal:
Just use the bullhorn six hours a day.
But they didn't listen.
Oris Thomas, 6250 Osage:
We were there first. This was our neighborhood, our community, our home. We were prisoners in our own homes — physically and mentally . . . day in and day out.
MOVE won. The city won. We lost.
Last summer, members of MOVE announced that Aug. 8 — the sixth anniversary of the police raid of a MOVE house in Powelton Village that resulted in the shooting death of police Officer James Ramp — would be a day of confrontation.
Hundreds of police officers and firefighters flocked to Osage Avenue in anticipation of violence that day. Residents of the neighborhood were evacuated.
There was no showdown between MOVE and the police that day.
But according to neighbors, Lloyd Wilson, who lived next to the MOVE house, was assaulted and punched in the face by Frank Africa.
The next day, Wilson and his family left the neighborhood.
On another night during the summer, Nathan Foskey, a handicapped man who walked with the aid of a cane, went down the steps of his home and came face to face with MOVE member Mo Africa. So angry, so frustrated, so beaten down, Foskey raised his cane in anger as if to hit him but then held back at the last second.
For his daughter, Nadine Foskey, the two incidents marked the beginning of the end of the neighborhood. When friends of hers such as the Wilsons decided to pack it in and leave, when her father got so angry that he was ready to hit someone, Nadine Foskey began to realize that it was over.
She said she had no physical fear of MOVE. Instead, she said, "When people started dropping off and saying they could no longer take it, that's when I really felt threatened."
In February, Bennett Walker Jr. was washing his car in front of his house when several MOVE members pulled up to their house in a truck. They began to saw some wood. The sawdust began to get onto Walker's car. He asked the MOVE people to move their truck elsewhere. Immediately, his mother said, he was attacked and beaten to the ground.
On March 1, Rachelle and Wayne Marshall, who had rented the house at 6223 Osage for nearly a decade, moved out.
During the year before, Wayne had gotten into a fight with MOVE members over a parking spot.
Rachelle Marshall was next door, in her aunt's dining room, when the fight occurred.
"It was a nice day out, and there was a lot of kids out there. We heard the noise and we thought it was just kids playing. Then it got louder, and sombody came to the door and said it was my husband. . . .
"By the time I got out, he had knocked a couple of the men out, so the men were laying on the ground. . . . "
"One of the women had run in the (MOVE) house. One of the women was holding him on the ground . . . biting him on his cheek . . .
"She had such a tight grip on his face he couldn't get it loose without her getting a bite out of his cheek. . . . "
Marshall was taken to the hospital by police for treatment to his cheek, and afterward, the neighborhood was never the same.
"I really wasn't too afraid being there till after my husband got hurt, but after that I was always afraid. . . . I just felt better about going out and working than staying home. . . . You couldn't relax there."
No one could. And no one would, unless something was done to remove MOVE from the neighborhood.
For 2 1/2 years, residents had gone to city officials in the hopes of getting something done.
They had followed official channels and their manner had hardly been pushy or zealous. And each time they saw someone from the city, the response had been the same: There was nothing the city could or would do.
On one occasion last year, Inez Nichols remembered, they saw Mayor Goode personally.
"He told us to have patience and everything would be taken care of," Nichols said.
But the residents had no patience left. With people getting beaten up by MOVE members, they decided to band together and go public about what was happening, venting their complaints at an emotional May 1 news conference. But many of them said they could feel, in the backs of their minds, a sense of inevitable doom.
"Things got tense," said Amanda Dorsey, who had lived on Osage Avenue for 28 years. "I just knew something was going to happen. The Lord only knew what. I didn't know."
Margaret Lane, 6234 Pine St.:
I passed a policeman by the barricades (last Sunday night). And then I got to my front door and there was a policeman on my front door. I said good evening, and he said good evening and I put my key in the door and I went in.
I had just made it into the kitchen when the doorbell rang. And there were these two white policemen. One of them was a captain and one of them was lieutenant or something. They said, "You know, you are the last person to be vacated on this block."
I told them I wasn't leaving anyway, not at all. And oh, I went off about it. I was pretty mad. I've been here for 29 years and I've worked hard for what I've got, and I'm not going to let some small militant group move me out of my house.
They were very nice. But then they said that if I didn't go too, they would have to arrest me, and I decided that I have never been in jail yet and I didn't want to go now. So I went.
First, I went upstairs, though. I was going to a funeral the next day for my dear friend, so I went upstairs. But then the police called me downstairs and said I was out of time. So I couldn't get anything. I just left the house with this. That's it. A bag of curlers. Just this dumb little bag with nothing but curlers in it.
The thing that really gets to me is that when I left they said, they specifically said, "I promise you, Miss, that you'll be back in your house within 24 hours." That's what really hurts. They sounded so sincere.
So I sat there all night long (on the porch of her sister's house on Walnut Street). I couldn't sleep. I just sat there. And then all of a sudden I heard this (MOVE) bullhorn and they said, "The city of Philadelphia will never forget this evening."
Elaine Dotson packed carefully. James Taylor Sr. took with him a uniform for work, two pairs of undershorts, three pairs of socks, a pair of work shoes, deodorant and a bottle of Jovan musk cologne.
"I get bottles of that stuff every Christmas, birthday and anniversary," he said. "It's all they (his family) knows to give me."
Evacuated from their homes by the police on Sunday night, most residents spent the next 24 hours glued to television sets, trying to get some inkling of what would happen and when they would be able to return.
Only one home on the 6200 block of Osage Avenue was fully occupied after the police evacuation, the home belonging to MOVE members, and, in the final hours before a shootout with the police, they broadcast their final series of diatribes.
The sounds of the bullhorn had echoed across Osage Avenue all day Sunday, a coarse counterpoint to the feelings of Earl Watkins, who had gone to chuch with a special prayer. "When I went to church, I prayed for MOVE, because I knew that something was coming," he said.
The voices over the bullhorn changed — now male, now female — and each assaulted anyone listening with an angry tirade. It kept up, on into the darkness, long after the last of the neighborhood's other residents were gone and only the police were there to listen. The neighbors never heard MOVE's last harangue:
Wilson Goode is a motherf-ing phony just like all you other goddamn phonies, and that's why we're going to fight you motherf-ers.
All you cops out there. All you motherf-ing sharpshooters. . . . You're supposed to be a goddamn sharpshooter. You're supposed to be a motherf-ing expert assassin. But you couldn't assassinate nobody, could you, motherf-er? You couldn't kill nobody, could you, motherf-er?
And you know why? Because MOVE is right and you motherf-ers is wrong . . .
Y'all can't come and violate the MOVE organization and think y'all can walk away with it and not feel the penalty of the violation. See, you motherf-ers been beating on MOVE people and killing MOVE babies for 17 years and locking us up when you know we ain't guilty, been persecuting this family for 17 goddamn years.
Y'all think you can just come in here and kill MOVE people, but, see, you crazy motherf-ing cops thought the same thing in '78. You motherf-ers went down there with that goddamn (Mayor Frank) Rizzo thinking y'all was gonna storm our house and wipe everybody the f- out. But what the f- happened?
MOVE is alive, MOVE is strong.
Delbert is strong. Janeen is strong. Tiffany is strong. Whitby's strong. All the MOVE members that was in the house is strong and alive. But that goddamn Ramp, that motherf-er that came in here to try to kill MOVE and bury it, and he's dead because he believed in the bullet and that motherf-er was shot down by his own cops' bullet.
We want to make that clear, see? We’ve been telling you our position. Our position is we want our people out of jail because they are innocent. They’ve been in jail for seven years, separated from their kids — for seven goddamn years. . . .
Y'all can forget about Philadelphia. Hear? Because John Africa is going to turn this motherf-er into a goddamn ghost town. You'll never get any goddamn business in this motherf-er. 'Cause, see, MOVE ain't going a goddamn place, MOVE ain't going no goddamn where.
I tell you what: If you motherf-ers do kill everybody in this house it ain't going to stop the MOVE organization, because you motherf-ers don't know what you're looking at.
MOVE ain't what you see in this goddamn house. I tell you what. All you motherf-ers can sit back and hallucinate about how it's going to be when this confrontation is over. But y'all ain't got no idea how it's going to be, because Philadelphia ain't going to never be the same again.
Monday morning, at 5:58, police and members of MOVE started trading the first of 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
Every several seconds, crackles and whistling richochets broke the eerie, haunting silence.
The shooting lasted for two hours. At 8 in the morning, police stalemated, shook their heads and tried to figure out what to do, or what their superiors would come up with.
They, and the world, would find out 9 1/2 hours later, at 5:27 p.m.
That was when police dropped the bomb on 6221 Osage. A fire flared, subsided, then flared again a few minutes later, and began its methodical march from house to house. The heat was so searing the fire had no trouble leaping across Osage Avenue to take out the facing houses or across the alley to destroy the Pine Street row.
Fifty-three homes were destroyed, eight others gutted.
As for the neighborhood, the description was easy:
There was nothing left.
Marguerite Walker, 6217 Osage:
We paid the house off two years ago. But it's not the house so much that I will miss. We lost a daughter in September. She was a chemist at Rohm & Haas. And all her wedding pictures were there. That was the one thing that was dearest to me. We had everything there. And that's been the hardest part, because we really haven't gotten over that yet, and everything that we had that was dearest to her, that is all gone.
First you lose her and then the house is gone. I don't know what else.
It was the washer-dryer that Jesse Mae Jackson bought at Strawbridge & Clothier. And the first report card that Virginia Sanders’ daughter, Trina, ever got in the school.
It was the cat, Mittens, that belonged to Milton Williams' family. And the treasured family Bible that sat on an oval wooden table near the front door of the family room in the home of Edith Benson.
It was the VCR that belonged to James Taylor Sr. And the mantelpiece photographs that decorated the home of Hazel Taylor. And the basement full of tools that Bennett Walker had been adding to and adding to for more than 20 years.
Some people had gathered these items just recently and never got to use them. Others had spent a lifetime collecting them.
But it didn't really matter.
Because everything was gone.
For some residents of the 6200 blocks of Pine and Osage, just being alive today is reason enough for hope.
"I'm victorious," said Nadine Foskey. "I'm alive."
But not everyone felt the same way.
There was the pain of losing something you could never recover.
"If my house had been the only one standing (after the fire), I would have liked to have picked it up and put it in the middle of Park Avenue," said Ernestine Grice. "To me, my house was worth $500 million. Now, you asked me, and I'm telling you."
And there was the pain of feeling lost.
"I feel like a little child that's been forced to leave home," said 51- year-old Johnnie Thomas, who lived on Osage Avenue for 22 years.
"I feel like a stranger in Philadelphia, because no one can understand the circumstances. You really have to be going through these things to really understand.
“It’s like I’m pining for my house, you know?” he said, his voice breaking. “I want my house.”
Contributing to this article were staff writers George Anastasia, Chris Conway, Russell E. Eshleman Jr., Susan FitzGerald, Suzanne Gordon, Eric Harrison, Anemona Hartocollis, Terry E. Johnson, Gerald B. Jordan, Marc Kaufman, David Lieber, Sandra Long, Howard Manly, Ellen O’Brien, Maida Odom, Michael Vitez, and Vanessa Williams.