"We can't turn back the back the hands of time and put the street back together and avoid this incident — but my goal is to make sure nothing like this happens again," she said.

To protect the area from further problems, Rawlings-Blake said, BGE severed power lines and the city redirected water and sewer around the area. The city will also construct sheet piling to shore up the wall and create a new foundation.

William M. Johnson, director of the city's Department of Transportation, said a portion of Charles Street will remain closed while the sonar testing is conducted to evaluate whether the ground has any more hollow areas. He also said the agency deployed engineers citywide to assess locations that experienced excessive flooding to determine whether other neighborhoods were at risk of a landslide.

"Some of the results are still coming back," he said.

All day Thursday, heavy equipment cleared debris from railroad's trench between Charles and St. Paul streets. By the afternoon, three cranes lifted cars and the large stones that made up the retaining wall from the scene as passersby, residents and news crews crammed along a fence line to watch through police tape.

Neighborhood residents shook their heads over seeing their fears about the street's integrity become reality.

Just about one year ago, longtime Calvert Street resident Peter Winch, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, started shooting emails to neighbors and calling 311 and CSX contacts to report troubling cracks in East 26th Street — at least one of which exposed ancient-looking brick from a previous road surface, he said.

Nothing was ever done beyond surface repairs, Winch said.

On Wednesday, "there was no surprise," he said, when his excited 17-year-old son, Lucas, called to tell him the street had collapsed.

"I don't want to be unduly critical of people because there are so many infrastructure issues in Baltimore, I think it's a bit of a nightmare sitting in City Hall looking at all the infrastructure problems around the city," Winch said. "On the other hand, I think we had a lot of evidence that something was going really wrong here."

Winch said Margaret Brent Elementary and Middle School children often walk along East 26th, and Baltimore "could have lost four or five kids" in the landslide.

"It was scary," said Erica McCullough, who runs a home-based cleaning company, Living Legacy, out of her home of 13 years on East 26th. "I have two small children."

McCullough said area residents have been urging city officials for years to fix infrastructure problems that caused the sidewalk and roadway to crack and crumble. Similar complaints have been reported by The Sun since the mid-1990s, when CSX and city officials debated who was responsible for repairing a smaller cave-in at East 26th and Guilford Avenue.

"Each day you would come out and see that the fissures in the street were a little larger," McCullough said. About 24 hours after the incident occurred, McCullough stood along a railing overlooking the landslide, wanting to return home.

"It's just hard to look at it. My idea is to pull myself together and come to terms with it. I fought for that house. I became a teacher at that house. That's been my dream for 20 years," she said. "I've walked down this street and wanted to live on this block. I just want it back."

For Temple, the question of where he and girlfriend Annie Plowman will stay was front of mind, but he also couldn't get over the futility of all the complaints.

"Emotionally, we're pretty invested in this place. We love it. We don't want to go anywhere," he said. "I feel even worse for the homeowners on the block who have … brought this up to the City Council and whoever would listen — which turned out to be no one."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Larry Perl and Sun research librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun