A contrite, somber Mayor W. Wilson Goode on Sunday night formally apologized for the city's tragically botched confrontation with the radical cult MOVE, but he did not respond to charges from a citizens' panel that he and aides were "grossly negligent" in their handling of the May 13 clash that killed 11 people and destroyed 61 homes.
"I apologize for all that this city has suffered as a result of May 13," Goode said in a televised address to the city. "As mayor I accept responsibility for all the actions of city government."
A special commission appointed by Goode on Thursday issued a scathing analysis of his handling of the confrontation with the bizarre, militant cult and recommended that a grand jury investigate whether officials had violated any laws. In trying to evict MOVE members from a row house they had occupied, authorities dropped a bomb on the roof and then refrained for about 45 minutes from fighting a fire touched off by the explosion.
Eleven cult members died, including five children, and two square blocks of homes in the middle-class black neighborhood were leveled by the fire.
Goode, the city's first black mayor who is struggling to salvage a once-promising political career, had been expected in the speech to give his first detailed answer to the panel's allegations. However, that apparently was put off at least until today when he has scheduled a news conference to talk about the report.
Instead, in his five-minute talk, Goode repeatedly expressed sorrow for the deaths and property loss and pledged to do better.
"For me personally, May 13 was the most tragic day of my life," Goode said. "When I think of the MOVE children I weep for them and their families. A part of me died with those children and to their families and to all of you I say I'm sorry.
"To say that I'm sorry for lives lost, for homes destroyed, for damage to our spirits, somehow can never be enough. But I do sincerely apologize to each and every Philadelphian who has suffered as a result of that terrible event. All of you deserve much more."