The Triangle Shirtwaist fire 95 years on. Jonathan Mark of the Jewish Week writes:
The UPI reporter, William Shepherd, was just by chance on the corner of Manhattan’s Washington Place and Greene Street when on March 25, 1911 flames started licking out of the eighth and ninth floors across the street. He knew the place, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. The year before its workers had gone on strike for better conditions.
Shepherd telephoned his office, where telegraph operators clickity-clacked a dramatic story across America. Shepherd saw, way above him, a young man helping a young woman to the ninth floor windowsill. The young man held her out the window, and let her drop. The man reached back into the flames, held a second girl out the window and then a third, letting them drop. None of the girls resisted, “as if,” reported Shepherd, “he were helping them into a street car instead of into eternity.”
A fourth girl put her arms around that man in the window and kissed him, perhaps impulsively for the first time or simply for the last. Then he held her out of the window and dropped her 100 feet to the sidewalk, quickly jumping after her.
“His coat fluttered upwards,” reported Shepherd, “the air filled his trouser legs as he came down. I could see he wore tan shoes.”
Shepherd wrote, “Later, I saw his face. You could see he was a real man. He had done his best.”
In less than half an hour, 146 people were dead, mostly young Jewish and Italian women. Witnesses said they fell “just like rain,” or like birds shot in the sky. In the street the water from the fire hoses ran red with the blood.…
- The fire was on Shabbat.
- At least one Triangle employee was saved because she kept Shabbat.
- Most of the victims were young Jewish and Italian women.
- The fire burned for 18 minutes. (Yorah Dayah enthusiasts, any thoughts on this?)
- 146 people were killed.
Although I’ve had my political disagreements with him in the past, Jonathan Mark is a wonderful writer. Please read the entire piece. It’s well worth your time.