Triangle Fire 1911

March 20, 2011 by staff 

Triangle Fire 1911, (CBS News) To walk in it now, it’s just another building off Washington Square in New York, part of the campus in Greenwich Village in New York University. But from the ashes of a fire that once consumed the upper floors, history was made. Michelle Miller offers this remembrance:

It was late in the afternoon on a beautiful spring Saturday – March 1911 – 4:40 pm, to be exact. It was nearly time to leave the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village, where workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish women and girls, preparing to receive there wages and go home.

Someone dropped a match or a cigarette … and just minutes from the factory, which occupied three floors of a 10-storey building, has become a hell.

Ladders, which were only 6 floors up, were unnecessary. The fire rescue collapsed under the weight of workers desperate attempt to escape.

One of the doors, it would be appropriate, has been locked.

The spectators on a weekend to walk around Washington Square Park, watched in horror as the women jumped to death from high floors windows, some crashing into the nets of a firefighter, the other striking sidewalk with a sickening noise.

That terrible day 100 years ago was almost a mirror of 9 / 11, “said Michelle Miller.

“In some ways it was,” said researcher Michael Hirsch. “The horror of the fire jumping the way they did. It was more intimate, though. You can look into the faces see the expression on their faces in their final moments, hitting the pavement hear them that way. ”

In the days that followed, family members crammed into a makeshift morgue, trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to identify those they have lost among the charred remains.

That day, “said Hirsch, all of New York was united in grief.

“This fire really shook people, he said Miller.” The city was so struck by guilt. Everyone knew that something was wrong, something wrong with this building and that perhaps we were somehow responsible. And it led to all these reforms that came after. ”

The fire led to an investigation of 2-year factory conditions, and laws that would revolutionize the U.S. labor market.

On the ashes of the fire at the Triangle is ripe for new security and fire … laws on child labor … and accidents.

The outpouring of support for people working galvanized the nascent American labor movement.

Frances Perkins – who witnessed the horror of that terrible day, and became a crusading reformer FDR and secretary of labor – called “the day the New Deal began.”

One hundred years later, there are tributes and memories of all kinds – even if the country is locked in a heated debate on the usefulness of unions today, and the need for regulation.

Hirsch, co-producer of an HBO documentary on the Triangle fire, said: “I thought it was important to remind people why we made the changes we have made along the way.”

He showed Miller the monument common in the Triangle.

But he worries that the memories of that day and its impact is fading – like the names on the graves in Mt Zion Cemetery in Queens.

A century after his mother escaped one of the deadliest fires in city history; Bud Freedman still cannot find an image that does not show his mother, smiling.

Rose Freedman had some appreciation of life after surviving the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory of March 1911, which killed 146 workers.

“She was one in a million,” Freedman said of his late mother, who died at age in 2001. “She was a class act. Wherever she went, people were watching.”

The small, 5-foot-2 woman has never spoken a word about life through the historical calamity until nearly, he said.
She said to Bud, his younger brother and sister, one night watching television.

“There is no doubt this tragedy has left a mark on her,” said Freedman, “I think it’s a horrible memory. She was not proud of it. I do not think it was a memory she wanted. “

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