PHILADELPHIA — Elizabeth Bostic has become a thoroughly frustrated woman since she was burned out of her West Philadelphia home last May 13, and she finds little comfort in the finding of a speciAl citizen's panel this week that top city officials were responsible for the reckless destruction of her neighborhood.
"Every night I wake up, and I'm in a strange place," sighed Bostic, 65, one of about 250 people left homeless last May by a bloody, ill-fated confrontation between authorities and the radical and militant cult MOVE.
'Everything Is Gone'
The administration of Mayor W. Wilson Goode has paid for her temporary lodging and is in the process of rebuilding all of the 61 homes leveled by a fire touched off during the clash. But Bostic says she and her 74-year-old husband, Kermit, can never get back their mementos and memories. "Everything I held dear to me and my husband is gone," she said. "One billion dollars could never restore it."
A 10-member panel of civic leaders appointed by Goode accused the mayor and top aides on Thursday of negligence and recklessness in their attempts to evict armed MOVE members from a fortified row house at 6221 Osage Ave., across the street from Bostic's clapboard bungalow. After firing thousands of rounds of ammunition without success, authorities dropped a bomb on the roof of the house from a helicopter and then stood by for more than 40 minutes before attempting to control the fire touched off by the explosion.
Six adults and five children in the MOVE house were killed, and the blaze spread to nearly two city blocks. The panel recommended that a grand jury investigate whether city officials were criminally liable for the youngsters' deaths.
Although the findings could have serious political or legal repercussions for Goode, Bostic expressed little interest in retribution for the mayor. The panel's findings will do nothing to relieve her anguish or repair the damage, she said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by other residents of the neighborhood. Perlina Edwards, a 73-year-old widow whose house was singed by the fire but not destroyed, complained that the city had not come through so far on promises to fix her damaged roof and make other repairs.
She has placed a taunting sign in her front window that reads: "A man is as Goode as his word." Still, Edwards, the grandmother of 17 children, says she can forgive Goode.
"I don't have nothing against the mayor," she explained. "I just figured he tried to do a job but he did it wrong by trying to drop a bomb . . . . I wouldn't ask him to resign. If he can make amends then he should run again."
Like Edwards, several homeowners around the fire scene have erected signs complaining that Goode and the city have failed to fulfill pledges to fix pipes and siding and make other repairs. "I'm really past talking," said an exasperated woman at 6241 Pine St. who refused to give her name. "The sign says it all."
Only 7 Homes Rebuilt
In addition to promising repairs to those whose homes were damaged, Goode pledged after the blaze that all 61 homes destroyed would be rebuilt by last Christmas. However, the project has run into many delays and contract problems, and only seven of the rebuilt homes have been finished, though most others are under construction.
While Bostic and others displaced by the MOVE clash eventually will be able to return, Goode said Friday that the city will take steps to prevent Louise James, the owner of the MOVE house and a relative of one of the cult's members, from reassuming control of the dwelling rebuilt at 6221 Osage.