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Flash mob victim's untold story

A victim of Philadelphia's March 20 flash mob, Anna Taylor was referred to in media reports only as the 27-year-old woman injured on South Street.

Anna Taylor is still shaken after a night of random violence in March.
Anna Taylor is still shaken after a night of random violence in March.Read more

A victim of Philadelphia's March 20 flash mob, Anna Taylor was referred to in media reports only as the 27-year-old woman injured on South Street.

Little was known or said about her.

That will change Wednesday night, as people gather in a Frenchtown, N.J., restaurant for a benefit for Taylor, an uninsured waitress who faces $7,000 in medical and dental bills after being punched in the face by a youth still being sought by Philadelphia police.

Taylor, who is separated and lives in Chalfont with a son, 9, and a daughter, 3, said she has thought a great deal about the punch - "the shock," "the blinding pain," and "the heartbreak that a teenager hit me in the face for no reason."

The blow that Taylor absorbed was so powerful that she lost a front tooth and its root, and the roots of nearby teeth still may die, her dentist told her. The punch also split her upper lip so severely that much of it was hanging from her face and she was unable to speak, Taylor said.

Taylor's mother, Peggy, a Germantown social worker, said her daughter needed so many stitches inside and outside her mouth at Hahnemann University Hospital after the assault that "we just couldn't count them."

The mob took over South Street that warm Saturday night, the first of spring, as though popping up from nowhere, witnesses said. It seemed to be following the patterns of three similar mobs that had quickly assembled in Center City on March 3, Feb. 16, and Dec. 18.

"They had smiles on their faces as they scared people at random," Assistant District Attorney Angel Flores said in an interview with The Inquirer a week after the March 20 attacks. "They thought that assaulting others was a form of enjoyment."

Indeed, the young man who hit Taylor was laughing as he punched her and said, "Bam, there's another one," according to Taylor. "It was frightening."

Taylor and her boyfriend, John Kemp, 35, had been walking about 10:20 p.m. on 15th Street between Kater and South Streets toward the Tritone bar to hear friends' bands play there, Kemp said Tuesday night.

Kemp, a house painter from Warminster, was hit twice in the head by another young man, but did not suffer a serious injury, he said.

"The two of them thought punching us was funny," Kemp said. "I don't know what was in their heads to hit two people they didn't know."

Taylor said that police had shown her photos of people who were in the crowd, but that she was unable to recognize her attacker.

Taylor's attacker was described by Philadelphia Police Lt. Frank Vanore as an 18-year-old black male. The case is still active, he added.

Summoned by Internet messages as well as by cell-phone texts and calls, thousands of teenagers and young adults swarmed South Street on the night of March 20. Police from all over the city flooded the area to control the crowd.

Businesses along South Street locked their doors, and some restaurants kept their patrons inside to ensure their safety. The crowd brought traffic along South Street to a standstill.

By early Sunday morning, police had made three arrests - two for disorderly conduct and one for aggravated assault. At that time, there were no reports of injuries or damage.

As though echoing the social worker in her mother, Taylor said, "This is the worst part of it: that Philadelphia youth are doing this with their time. I'd like to see some help for these kids."

Accustomed to visiting Philadelphia, Taylor said, "I'm trying not to allow this to change the way I think about the city. I don't want to be afraid."

Recently, Taylor returned to the city to hear Kemp play in a band. "I was scared," she admitted. "But no one got hurt that night."

Buoyed by the outpouring of support from friends and neighbors, Taylor said she was impressed by people's concern.

"Frenchtown is the most caring community I've ever been a part of," said Taylor, who plans to be a nurse-midwife.

"Something happens, and they just raise the barn around someone, and I feel so fortunate to be part of that."

Taylor, who friends say is part of a vibrant local arts and music scene, has worked about two years at the restaurant, the Lovin' Oven, in which the benefit will be held.

"She's a loving mother with a glowing soul," said Frenchtown musician Dave Cahill, who helped organize the benefit with Taylor's boss, Julie Klein, co-owner of the Lovin' Oven with her husband, Mike Quinn.

Cahill meant only to alert a few Facebook friends about the benefit. But he said he hit the wrong button on his computer and contacted more than 1,000, many of whom asked where they could send money.

Cahill said it showed the positive power of the Internet, which has itself been criticized for its part in the four flash mobs that have beset the city since late last year.

Peggy Taylor said that her daughter, a size 2 who has lost 15 pounds since the attack, would require several surgeries and need a year to mend.

But, she added, "Our biggest concern is what direction Philadelphia's children are getting. What is the world heading toward?

"My daughter will heal. She will repair in every way. But what will happen to these kids?"