Natural Disasters New York's Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Part 2

About the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City, account of the disasters, death, and destruction, which led to expanded worker's rights.



As the fire worsened, crazed girls jumped into the elevator shaft, only to put the elevator out of commission. Others, following the lead of owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, made their way to the roof and escaped to another building. On the tenth floor, Clotilda Terdanova, frightened beyond reason, broke a window and jumped to her death. Many girls followed her in quick succession.

The rescue work of 150 firemen was hampered by falling bodies. The few jumpers who were caught broke the nets. Falling from 85 ft., they hit with a force of 11,000 lb. Street voices begged the girls at the windows not to jump. Ladders shot skyward, but they reached only to the sixth floor. Pumper trucks turned on full pressure, but the water fell short of the seventh floor. The flimsy fire escape, built to support no more than one or two people, collapsed under the weight of all these teenagers.

Bill Shepherd, an eyewitness and a UPI reporter, had this to say: "A young man helped a girl to the windowsill on the ninth floor. Then he held her out deliberately away from the building and let her drop. He held out a second girl the same way and let her drop. He held out a third girl who didn't resist. I noticed that. They were all as unresisting as if he were helping them into a streetcar instead of into eternity. He saw that a terrible death awaited them in the flames, and his was only a terrible charity."

In 18 minutes the tragedy had run its course. At least 145 people had died horribly and needlessly. More than 40 jumped from windows, and 20 jumped into the elevator shaft.

Aftermath: Over 100,000 mourners attended the mass funeral, and voices of irate citizens rocked the city demanding to know how and why such a tragedy had occurred. In the course of the investigation, the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, the county, the state, and the insurance companies were exonerated. The disaster did spearhead significant reforms in building safety, fire prevention, and insurance practices, but all of this came too late for 23 beneficiaries who, three years after the fire, received $75 each as payment in full for the loss of their loved ones.

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