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'Nothing short of a miracle,' says daughter of retired teacher who survived condo collapse

Georgia Brooks had just returned home from a trip to the grocery store Sunday evening when she smelled gas in her second-floor condo.

Brooks, 78, opened a window, turned on her radio, and then lay down in her bed to rest.

Firefighters pulled Georgia Brooks from the rubble. In addition to a crushed vertebra in her lower back, she suffered cuts and and bruises. | Provided photo

“The next thing she knew was that the walls were caving in around her,” said Brooks’ daughter, Michero Washington.

As her three-story condo building collapsed, Brooks “rode it to the ground in a void in the rubble,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

Brooks’ upstairs neighbor, a 51-year-old woman, similarly found safety in a pocket of space as the building fell. Firefighters found her and she was treated and released from a local hospital Sunday night.

Firefighters also pulled Brooks from the rubble, but she was not as lucky. In addition to a crushed vertebra in her lower back, she suffered cuts and and bruises.

“She’s in a lot of pain and under heavy sedation at Stroger Hospital,” Washington said.

Demetrice Burgess, a close friend of Brooks, said doctors plan to perform surgery on Brooks as soon as Monday afternoon.

“She’s alive and that’s a blessing. But she’s in a lot of pain,” Washington said.

Three-flat building that collapsed Sunday.

Brooks, a retired teacher schoolteacher who worked in Arlington Heights and Chicago, was taking care of her grandson’s dog at the time of the collapse, a pit bull named Tigger.

“She was more worried about the dog than herself,” said Washington.

“She said she had made steak and rice for them. She spoils the dog,” Burgess said.

“This is truly a miracle,” Burgess said. “Nothing short of a miracle.”

Firefighters rescued the two women Sunday night from the rubble of the building at 5845 S. Calumet Ave. in the Washington Park neighborhood shortly after it collapsed about 6:55 p.m.

Witnesses said there was an explosion before the building fell. People’s Gas was on scene Monday afternoon trying to determine whether a gas leak may have caused the explosion. The utility had cut off gas to the building, and to the buildings on either side of it, as a precaution.

Neighbors said the condo building, which was built about eight years ago, replaced a building that attracted people from the neighborhood who were up to no good. “It was a troubled spot,” said one neighbor.

Totaled car from scene of building collapse | Brian Slodysko/Sun-Times Media