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The Tragedy Of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Of 1911

2398 words - 10 pages

Girls and women ran to the doors and to the elevator. The elevator operator saved as many as he could, but he had to stop running the elevator because the fire had spread too far to keep operating it safely. Sisters, mothers, and daughters were separated. For some, the last thing they saw of their family member was either them going down the elevator, or trapped in the building. The workers became truly desperate. Some threw themselves down the elevator shaft after the elevator stopped coming. Others rushed to the fire escape, but it collapsed under all the weight. The firemen were not able to catch any of the girls that jumped through the window because the nets broke, the ladder on the tuck only reached to the sixth floor, and the water from the fire hose only reached the seventh floor. The firefighters sprayed the building as high as they could in hopes that the mist would cool the fire and start to put it out. The women soon realized that escape was hopeless. Knowing that they were going to burn to death, some turned to the window and jumped. None of the girls that jumped survived the fall. Within twenty minutes of the fire breaking out, there were bodies lying on the street and people surrounding the building. The total number of victims of the fire was 146. Nineteen bodies were recovered from the elevator shaft, and fifty-four workers died by jumping out of windows. 12 The two founders, Harris and Blanck, made it out of the burning building alive, but some of their family members worked in the upper floors of the factory and were killed by the fire.
People standing outside the building watched helplessly as people dropped from the windows of the ninth floor. William Shephard, a reporter for the United Press said, “Thud -- dead; thud -- dead; thud -- dead; thud – dead... I call them that, because the sound and the thought of death came to me each time, at the same instant."13 Another bystander who worked as a reporter for the United Press sad that, as he was standing near the building, he had learned “a new sound a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk."14 Joseph Fletcher worked as an assistant cashier on the eighth floor of the Asch building. He ran upstairs to the ninth floor, but was unable to enter because the fire was too big. He then ran up to the tenth floor where he saw people running around screaming. When they realized that their only escape was to the roof, he followed them. He looked down to the street and saw “my girls, my pretty ones, going down through the air. They hit the sidewalk spread out and still.”15 People were horrified by how many bodies there were. There was not enough room in the morgue for all of the bodies, so a makeshift morgue was set up at a local police station. When there was no more room at the police station, a makeshift morgue was created at a nearby pier. Bodies were lined up along the street so families could identify them....

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