The Triangle Fire 1911

Mightiest Demonstration of Labor ever Seen Shakes N.Y. Streets

Source: The Call (New York) April 6, 1911;
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.

Yesterday a great, black scar of quivering grief and indignation disfigured the face of new York.

Two hundred thousand men and women who toil were in sack cloth, and two hundred thousand hearts were in rebellion.

Because one hundred and forty-five were slain, two hundred thousand of their brothers and sisters in bondage passed in silence between walls of a million more who lined the way.

Nature wrung her hands while her children bit their lips.

Throughout the day soft, warm tears fell from a sullen sky till the streets the marchers trod were reeking — and silent.

Viewed from above the wavering black line of mourners seemed a broad ribbon of grief. Two hundred thousand were moving by like ominous phantoms.

Silence reigned along the endless line, save where at odd intervals a small band of musicians repeated some solemn air.

Even these rare sounds were more than half smothered by the falling rain, the drenched garments of the marchers; the dripping walls of buildings threw back no echo but the beat of human hearts.

When day broke yesterday, hollow-eyed and wet, voices on every side proclaimed the fear that such weather would keep indoors the hosts who sought to mourn their dead under the dull-sighted eyes of them who reap the profit and never count the cost.

Rain Didn’t Matter

But they who feared in the morning were ashamed of their fears in the afternoon.

The dark day served only to deepen the grief of them who work. From every factory sweatshop and tenement on the East Side, and from the West Side, from the Bronx and Brooklyn and Brownsville, men and when poured out under the dripping skies.

Before 9 o'clock in the morning ten thousand persons had gathered at Rutgers Square and the number was increased to fifty thousand two hours before the procession was to set out at 1:30 p.m.

Twenty-second street near Madison Avenue, the meeting place of the uptown section, was packed with people at noon.

Rain was falling heavily at this hour, but no one appeared to notice it. Long since they had even ceased to speak of it.

What was a downpour of rain after a downpour of girls and young men from the windows of a skyscraper devoured by flames?

New York’s working class found itself yesterday.

No such demonstration of class feeling and solidarity has ever been seen in the western hemisphere.

One hundred and forty five girls and men did not die in vain.

As Endless Silent Line

One who did not see that silent, endless line of rain-swept men and omen pass solemnly through the streets of new York yesterday cannot hope to learn from this or any other story of its progress the impression it created.

Girls, girls without number were here, their wet legs tangled and hampered in wetter skirts, their backs soaking under the steady drip of umbrellas, unsteadily supported by weary arms and numb fingers.

Women of middle age and past trudged, trudged over the rough cobbles and soaked their feet in puddles they could not see until their shoes were submerged.

Men leaned upon one another’s shoulders, shook the water from their hats and tramped on.

And over all, silence.

Over the miles of course pursued by the procession fully a million persons packed the sidewalks. These, like the marchers, were but partially supplied with umbrellas. Upon them all, the unending rain fell and no one made complaint. There was but little conversation among the onlookers, and almost none among the marchers.

Workers left to Themselves

It was the workers and the workers alone that composed that giant, silent procession. It was left strictly to them to mourn their dead.

One could not look upon that solemn trudging mass of toilers and fail to be deeply moved.

The silence that prevailed was that of awe.

One felt a sense of their terrible power thus massed in a resistless army.

The working class of New York for once has gathered itself together and realized its strength. It will not forget.