March 25, 1911 is a day that still lives on in the hearts and minds of many New Yorkers. On this day 129 women and 17 men died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. By all descriptions this was one of the most horrifying experiences anyone could have imagined. Veteran military men, with combat experience, were horrified. Men and women jumping from the 9th floor windows holding hands and hugging while they fell to their deaths. Some were on fire as they fell and some bodies were actually melted together. There is even evidence of a locked door that kept the people from escaping. Apparently this door was locked to cut down on pilferage.
It is said that not a single city block, in Lower Manhattan, was spared a victim. In immigrant communities everyone knows everyone. Even in a large city like NYC. These were people who came to America looking for a better life. Looking for the streets that were supposed to be paved with gold. We all know that their expectations were crushed in the tenements of NYC. No gold streets but something even better. Opportunity to achieve the American Dream. And for immigrants to America, even today, opportunity is all they needed.
Members of my family lived in New York City at the time of this fire and many worked in the garment industry. I have heard family talk about this when I was a child. Yesterday when I was watching the HBO show about this fire I found myself reading down the names of the people killed looking for any that were familiar to me. Thankfully none were familiar.
As with all tragedies there were investigations, accusations, trials and cover ups. We are starting to see the beginning of that happening in Japan now. But some good did come out of this tragedy. I always wonder why it takes something like this to get people to do what common sense tells us it the correct thing to do.
Many of the work place rules now in effect came as a result of this fire. We work and live safer because of their sacrifice. I wish they did not have to sacrifice to achieve this for the rest of us.
Read the list of names as an exercise in memoriam to these people. It is at this link.
So many of the immigrant communities are represented on this list. This would be my list for Whose Who In America.
As an American I acknowledge that we have many faults but we make up for them with opportunity and hope that is given in exchange for hard work and good citizenship.
As a women I am deeply saddened by the loss of life in this fire. I am also grateful that their sacrifice did not go unnoticed.
PS....Watch the video here:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1kDRCVhqjw&feature=autoplay&list=PLA8AB02C28CD6CABF&index=6&playnext=2