Friday, March 25, 2011

100 Years Ago Today

A lot has been written in the past month about the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire that 100 years ago today killed 146 people, mostly young women, and mostly Jews and other immigrants. While it is interesting to me that 100 years later people are still debating organized labor and immigration issues, and it is left to the reader to determine how far we've come after 10 decades of discussion, I can’t help but think that the victims themselves have been lost to history.

This weekend there are commemorative events at NYU, Cooper Union, the Museum at Eldridge Street each with its complement of poetry, impassioned speeches, music, storytelling, theater, prayer, and ideally a moment to reflect on those 146 souls.

The Forward put together a really terrific print issue and website devoted to the fire. Articles that appeared in the “Forverts” have been translated into English and give the reader a true sense of what it was like to read about this tragedy in its immediate aftermath. We learn about a young woman who was to be wed later that week, and another couple who embraced and kissed before leaping to their deaths. It reminded me of the New York Times solemn devotion to the Portraits of Grief after September 11.
May the memory of all who lost their lives that day be a blessing for the ages.
There is a particularly interesting video produced by Gabrielle Birkner on the Forward site about workplace safety issues that resulted in 35 fire safety laws in New York state that were eventually adopted on the federal level when FDR was president. If you work in a public space, or ever find yourself in one, say a special blessing for the EXIT sign, panic bar, fire extinguisher, and manual fire alarm in your midst.

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