Humans of Philly

Kayla Butera and Brianna Hatch

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Pete (Left) – Liberty Bell

“I’ve been working here for seven to eight years. Liberty is possibly the most valuable thing we have as American citizens. We can do—within reason—almost anything we want. The bell has turned into an icon, a symbol of liberty and justice that has a long historic career.  [The first time I saw the bell] was possibly the worst night of my lifetime: it was Oct. 22, 1962. It was an amazing night, it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were at a meeting up at the Ben Franklin Hotel a few blocks up the street, and it was a scary night—making babies, just married, the whole thing—and here was this horrible chance of nuclear war. We all went down that night and  looked at the bell, and thought, if that was free, so were we.”

Patrick (Right) – Liberty Bell

“I’ve been working here for seven years. What does liberty mean to me? That’s actually a really tough question. I have to agree with my colleague Pete, liberty is one of the most important things we have as Americans. But I also think that it is a concept that we have to live up to as an example to the world. There are a lot of people in the world that are denied the things that we take so much for granted. I actually don’t remember seeing the bell for the first time. My aunt brought me to Philadelphia, and I was very little, to see the bell and that was when you could touch it. So apparently I touched the bell. I do recall when I first revisited the bell as an adult that I was very moved. The building had a curved feature to it and you don’t see the bell until you come up to the last moment, and I remember seeing it, and being taken aback by it.  It was a very moving experience as an adult with fresh eyes.”

The Shoe Doctor “Doc” – ‘Best Shoe Shine in Philly’ 

Photo by Brianna Hatch

“I made a mistake when I wrote Philly, I’m the best in the country—because I know shoes. What does that sign say? I’m a shoe doctor. I’ve been here since 1990—I shined shoes in Asbury Park, in New York, all over. But right here in Reading Market is my favorite—you see people from all over the world. I’ve got people coming from Australia, all the way for a shoe shine. I [shined shoes] for Dr. Phil, [my coworker shined] George Bush’s daughter, [my other coworker shined] Obama’s. I don’t love shining shoes, but I love the work.”