“Washington Place Fire”
(April 20, 1911) I, with a number of other girls, was in the dressing room on the eighth floor of the Asch Building, in Washington place, at 4.40 o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday, March 25, when I heard somebody cry ! “Fire!” I left everything and ran for the door on the Washington place side. The door was locked and immediately there was a great jam of girls before it. The fire was on the other side, driving us away from the only door that the bosses had left open for us to use in going in or out. They had the doors locked all the time for fear that some of the girls might steal something. At the one open door there was always a watchman who could see if any one carried out a bundle or if there was a suspicious lump in any one’s clothing.
The fire had started on our floor and quick as I had been in getting to the Washington place door the flames were already blazing fiercely and spreading fast. If we couldn’t get out we would all be roasted alive. The locked door that blocked us was half of wood; the upper half was thick glass. Some girls were screaming, some were beating the door with their fists, some were trying to tear it open.
There were seven hundred of us girls Triangle Waist Company, which had three floors, the eighth, ninth and
tenth, in the Asch Building. On our floor alone were two hundred and thirty. Most of us were crazy with fear and there was great confusion. Some one broke out the glass part of the door with something hard and heavy I suppose the head of a machine and I climbed or was pulled thru the broken glass or was and ran downstairs to the sixth floor, where some one took me down to the street.
I got out to the street and watched the upper floors burning, and the girls hanging by their hands and then dropping as the fire reached up to them.
There they were dead on the sidewalk. It was an awful, awful sight, especially to me who had so many friends among the girls and young men-who were being roasted alive or dashed to ‘death. I can’t describe how I felt as I stood watching. I could see the figures, but not the faces; the police kept us all too far back. We hoped the fire nets would save some, but they were no good for persons falling so far. One girl broke thru the thick glass in the sidewalk and fell down into a cellar. That shows with what force they came down from the ninth floor.
One girl jumped from the ninth floor and her clothing caught on a hook that stuck out from the wall on the eighth.
The fire burned thru her clothing and she fell to the sidewalk and was killed.
Another girl fell from the eighth to the sixth floor, when a hook supporting a sign caught her clothes and held her.
She smashed the window of the sixth floor with her fist and got in the shop and went down to the street, saving herself. One of my friends, Annie Rosen, was an examiner on the ninth floor. She was near a window when the cry of fire was raised. She tried to open the window to get out. It stuck, but she got it open and climbed on a little fire escape. The fire was coming up from the eighth floor and in getting from the ninth to the eighth her hat and her hair were burned She doesn’t know how she got to the eighth; maybe she fell. She was going to jump to the ground, but the people who were watching her from the street shouted not to do it, and somehow she got thru the flames. She fell from the eighth to the sixth floor on the fire escape and then she was carried down to the street and taken to Bellevue Hospital, where there were many of her companions. She is out now, but pale as a ghost; she does not think that she ever be strong again. She has lost her nerve and is afraid all the time.
I was on the street with other girls watching. We were screaming for about twenty minutes and then some one took me home. I don’t know who it was. Afterward I went to the Morgue and saw my friends there, Ida Jacobowski, Rosey Sorkin, Bennie Sklawer, Jacob Klein, Sam Lehrer and others.
It was on the ninth floor that there was the great loss of life. Altogether 145 were killed and of these 120 belonged on the ninth floor.
When firemen broke open the door on the Washington place side they found fifty bodies piled up there. I, who worked on the eighth floor, was unhurt, except for the shock, and will go to work again at the same business as soon as I can get a job in a fireproof factory. END