On Friday March 25th, the ceremony for the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire took place. There had been events all day, but I came for the bell ringing ceremony that took place at the site at the exact time the fire broke out a century ago. At 4:45pm everyone rang a bell or rattled their keys. There was a lot of emotion as people rang their bells and looked up to the top floors of the building, imagining what that day had been like 100 years before. Some of the organizers shouted out names of those who had perished”¦saying “We remember you Fannie Rosen!!” Purple and black bunting had been hung out the windows on the 8th floor. As I watched it blowing in the breeze, I was filled with sorrow knowing what those poor girls had gone through.
The names of the victims had been written on the sidewalk and there were 146 white and red carnations on the ground as well, making the number of dead that more real. Other flowers and wreaths were placed in front of the building, donated by unions and other organizations.
One woman came dressed in a period costume from the era. She was all in black and carried a union organizing sign. She was a bit foreboding, like a ghost from the past, a survivor of the fire. People were a bit scared of her, but kept taking her photo. She never said a word. She walked among the crowd and posed in front of the sign and the wreaths.
I also noticed a fireman in the crowd, in his dress blues. It was touching to see him show his respects. This was a tragedy for the New York Fire Department as well. Some of the organizers sang Irish folk songs. Then the crowd joined in and we all sang “We Shall Overcome” and “Amazing Grace.” It was a powerful day of remembrance and it was an honor to be a part of it.
Coming soon: Untapped will be looking into the conditions of garment workers today in sweatshops scattered through Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In a Daily News editorial on the day of the anniversary, New York State assemblyman Eric Schneiderman wrote forebodingly, “Tragically, a century later, many of my colleagues in government seem to have forgotten the lessons of that unspeakable disaster. Over the last decade progress has slowed and, in many states, workers’ rights have been seriously weakened.” (via Gothamist). Untapped aims to unveil some of the situations that currently exist right in our midst in 2011.