It’s the anniversary of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Co. sweatshop fire in the Asch Building, which still stands at 29 Washington Place (the NYU goliath calls it the Brown Bldg). It was a Saturday, closing time, back before the five-day week. Some 600 workers toiled away there fabricating shirtwaists, a then-fashionable dress-style, in the top three stories of the ten-story building. Many were young women, immigrants or the children of immigrants, lots of them still in their teens. The fire started on the 8th floor. There was one elevator: it crashed from the weight; there was one external fire escape: it too collapsed from the weight of the fleeing. Some of the exits were locked. There was no sprinkler system and the fire fighters weren’t equipped to reach that high. One hundred forty-six died, 30 of them jumping to their death on Greene St. Assistant cashier Joseph Flecher later said he saw "my girls, my pretty ones, going down through the air. They hit the sidewalk spread out and still."
I was writing about this for work the other day, while I was listening to Billy Bragg singing his anthems live on the radio, and I started to cry.