Monday, March 29, 2010

Lest We Forget

I saw this sidewalk chalk-graffitit when I was walking home from work late on Friday night, and feeling just a bit grouchy & fatigued. Trying to get used to my new contact lenses, scurrying down a blustery cold Great Jones Street, this reminder of the tragic fire that took the lives of 146 mostly very young, immigrant women and injured 70, was a reality check of sorts. The horrific toll of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was a tragedy waiting to happen. The cramped and fabric-strewn sweatshop floors were bolted shut from the outside by supervisors in order to prevent workers taking unauthorized breaks. Many of the victims burned to death, but many others jumped to their deaths from the 9th and 10th floor windows as the fire raced through the loft spaces because fire department ladders weren't tall enough to reach them. It is harrowing to read the accounts of those who watched from the street as these teenaged girls grabbed hold of each other before leaping from the building. We're not talkin' Thelma and Louise, here. In the fire's aftermath, many worker-protection improvements were made possible, and the Ladies' Garment Workers Union gained strength. The former Triangle Factory building on Washington Place now belongs to NYU.

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