In May, I wrote a piece and posted some pictures on my exploratory experience at the abandoned Julia De Burgos Bilingual Magnet Middle School in the Fairhill neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Today I photographed the epic and eerie structure as it burned, billowing the ash and smoke of its decaying contents into the air. All of those books and desks and lockers and paperwork that I wrote about fueling its final battle against the elements. What the wind and water could not erode away into the earth, the flames reclaimed.

Many interviewees suggested conspiracy theories as the culprit, claiming that the fire would save a few million dollars of demolition work. In my own research, I found that the school was set to be torn down at the end of the summer, which is why we went to shoot there in the first place. As “El” from North Philly put it, “With devastation comes new life.”

Julia De Burgos Bilingual Magnet Middle School 4-Alarm Fire, Fairhill, North Philadelphia, 8.3.11

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