The crack in the pavement had been there for the two years that Nick Reyes rented one of the 19 rowhouses lining the north side of East 26th Street in Baltimore’s Charles Village neighborhood. It ran along the top of an embankment leading down to sunken railroad tracks.
“We were always joking that one day, that whole side of the road is going to fall off into that pit,” said Reyes, a retail worker and the drummer for a band called Paul Newman and the Ride Home, which plays a mix of folk and punk music.
On Wednesday, the street, north of the city’s downtown, did what Reyes, 24, and his neighbors had long predicted. Helped by torrential rain and possibly by an unusually snowy winter, part of East 26th Street crashed onto the tracks. “I knew it was going to go,” Reyes said.
Many photos surfaced of the aftermath, and some videographers captured parts of the calamity. But Reyes caught the moments leading up to the collapse — the road gradually sinking, parked cars tipping, the crack growing.
Watching, as many have, over and over, it seemed clear that the street would give way. Reyes knew it, too. For more than 90 seconds, he recorded. People screaming. A police officer walking through the frame, talking into a radio. Finally, the street seems to gasp, the cars jerk downward and the pavement gives way. Reyes’s video shows the length of the street simply disappear — vehicles tumble off, light poles and trees fall out of view.
The Washington Post bought the video from Reyes’s friend, Todd Wallace, who posted it on YouTube. Neither The Post nor Reyes would provide the price.
The people who live in the 19 rowhouses have been told that they might not be able to return for as long as 40 days as Baltimore officials and representatives of the railroad, CSX, investigate how the collapse occurred, whether it’s the city’s or CSX’s responsibility and whether the houses are structurally sound. The tracks — on which freight moves between the East Coast and the Midwest — have been cleared of debris and trains are running again.
Reyes said he had been in his house with the window partially open when he overheard neighbors chatting. He went out and saw them pointing at the crack. “It was getting progressively worse,” he said. “I went back inside, put my shoes on and started filming.”
After the collapse, Reyes rushed back in, put his cat in a carry case and grabbed a bag with provisions. When he tried to return for more belongings, police had closed the street. “I couldn’t even go to my front door to lock it,” said Reyes, whose family moved from California to the Baltimore area when he was in the third grade. Residents have since been allowed to retrieve belongings.
Reyes is trying to figure out where to live for a month or so. Not only has he lost his residence, he also lost his Jeep Grand Cherokee.
For a while, the Jeep, filled with band equipment, teetered on the edge of the street. A police officer would not let Reyes try to rescue it or what was inside. “He told me: ‘At this point, you’re going to have to leave it. It’s going to be gone.’”
So once again, Reyes pulled out his camera. And, yes, he captured the moment his Jeep disappeared over the precipice.