Today, March 25th is the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which 146 people (mostly women and young girls) lost their lives. This fire highlighted the need for sweeping change to the inhumane working conditions at that time. Many of the dead perished in the building because the exit door was locked (either to keep the workers in or the union organizers out), while others lept to their deaths out of windows or fell from the fire escape which collapsed under the weight of those trying to escape the fire. Fire truck ladders were not long enough to reach the top floors where the fire was. Today that same building is part or the NYU campus, but each year there is a memorial for those who died.
|The building today.|
On this same date 26 years ago another fire occurred at the (unlicensed) Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx. This fire was started by a jilted ex-boyfriend. Eighty-seven people died. Two years prior to the fire the building was closed because of safety violations: no fire exits, sprinkler system or alarms. There was no documentted follow up by the fire department to see if these violations were corrected.
It is clear that there were fire exits at the time of the fire, but they were blocked in an effort to prevent people from trying to enter the club without paying. Today the corner where the fire occured is called the "Plaza of the Eighty-Seven" in memorial to those who died.
|Memorial that stands across the street from where the fire occurred.|