Thursday, May 7, 2015

When Philadelphia bombed itself 30 years ago

Andino Ward is an admirable dude. He's a child of God, an IT entrepreneur, a musician, a voiceover narrator, a good friend (He encouraged me to start this blog about 6 years ago), an outstanding example of what every parent should be ... and unfortunately, someone who endured what no father ever should. I found that out when we sat down for a revealing interview about his son, who was forever linked to the MOVE bombing disaster on Osage Avenue in Philadelphia on May 13, 1985.
Arriving to pick up his son from his ex-wife for visitation, he was informed that she had taken the child, renamed him "Birdie Africa," and went to live in the MOVE compound. Considering the number of alarming problems, dating back to the mid-'70s, that the radical, confrontational back-to-nature group had caused their neighbors, the police and the City of Philadelphia, it was the epitome of a worst nightmare.

For years, he unsuccessfully attempted to get custody. Then the Philadelphia District Attorney's office -- at that time the DA was future Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell -- made some outrageous proposals, according to Ward.
He watched the frightening footage on TV of emergency personnel allowing the fire to ravage Osage Avenue. That's how desperate the city was to rid itself of MOVE. Then Ward, unaware at the time that his son was the only child survivor of the blaze, got a shocker of a phone call from his father. The family later successfully sued the city over how the situation was handled. The boy had been severely burned. 

While the boy was healing, and very slowly adjusting to a normal life outside the cult-like environment of MOVE, there was the issue of changing his name.

Going on to graduate from North Penn High School -- even playing football for the Knights -- and for the most part quietly living his adult life, Michael Ward passed away in 2013. The coroner's official ruling was drowning due to acute alcohol poisoning -- a strange thing considering that he was conscious about his health.

The positive we can take away from all the struggle and tragedy is Michael Moses Ward had what can be considered an extraordinary life thanks to the love of his father, stepmother and sisters. Andino Ward was mulling writing a book at the time this interview took place.