As cars whipped by the corner of Henry Avenue and School House Lane on Tuesday night, a group of students and staff from Philadelphia University cupped the flames of white candles lit in memory of Alonzo Lewis.
Lewis, the 77-year-old basketball legend from Chadds Ford, Pa., was killed at that East Falls intersection one week earlier after being struck by a 2010 Nissan as it turned left onto Henry Avenue from School House Lane around 6:40 p.m. Lewis was walking across the street at the time of the accident.
Brittany Chapman, a fifth-year architecture student at Philadelphia University, said Lewis’ death pushed her over the edge. She soon organized the vigil with a friend.
“The number of accidents we’ve seen at this intersection is just devastating. It’s just at the point where you have to do something,” she said.
A number of Chapman’s classmates – many of whom joined in after finishing evening courses – shared stories of near misses at the busy intersection. Junior Janie Holl, who left her fashion design class early to join the vigil, said she was surprised tragedy hasn’t struck sooner.
“I don’t think the cars passing realize what happens or how dangerous it is when they go so fast. Maybe us standing here will make them understand that they need to slow down,” said Holl.
Edward Heron, a member of the University’s maintenance crew, is hoping for the same. Heron knew Lewis personally. The two teamed up to coach a summer basketball squad that both of their daughters played on while in middle school. They’d been friends ever since.
“I was devastated, “said Heron, who learned about the incident while at work. ” He was always very quiet and went about his business. It was a great honor to be around him.”
“I hope they actually do something about this intersection,” he added.
During an emergency community meeting Sunday, Captain Verdell Johnson with the 39th Police District pledged to obtain “speed timing” equipment and deploy officers to the area once they’re trained.
An official with the Philadelphia Parking Authority said at the same East Falls Community Council event that his agency would look into whether the intersection warrants a red-light camera.