Remembering the Victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic, Faith, Family, Fire, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

by Katie Vasquez

A fire truck ladder was raised in memorial as a testament to one of the worst fires in New York City history.

“These girls were doomed,” Lou Miano, a relative of one of the victims, said.

Relatives of the victims gathered in Greenwich Village to remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy.

Hundreds of immigrant girls and women were toiling away at sewing machines for hours, when a fire broke out on the upper floors on Mar. 25, 1911.

“Her hair was on fire, her clothes were on fire. The panic, the smoke, the flames,” Miano said.

The Jewish and Italian immigrants tried to escape but the doors were locked.

Dozens leapt to their deaths.

“Every time I see those pictures of the bodies laying on the sidewalk, it really gets to me, it gets me upset,” Mary Ann Hacker, a relative of one of the victims, said.

Authorities counted 146 workers that died by the time it was all over. Their deaths marked the beginning of the labor movement’s fight for workplace safety protections.

“I’m glad that maybe this was a catalyst for all the unions and all of that but I want people to remember these women that died, they were just working to make a buck,” Hacker said.

Their sacrifice is now a memorial, 112 years later. Horizontal stainless steel plates run along the building. It has their names, ages, and their testimonies.   

Miano found his great aunt’s name, Santina Salemi, in the memorial. She was just 24 years old at the time of her death.

“Instead of fleeing, Santina stayed with her best friend and they both perished from smoke inhalation in the fire,” Miano said.

Santina’s sister, Francesca, survived the horror that day.

“She made a sacred vow to the Blessed Mother that if she could survive the fire, she would devote her life to God,” Miano said. “And next thing you know she was up on the roof being led to safety. ”

She stuck with her promise, taking her vows as Sister Mary Albertina two years later.

“She remained with the sisters until her death in 1941,” Miano said. 

She’s just one of the dozens of stories that are now part of New York City history, forever embroidered in the fabric of time.