You’ve heard the phrase, “By the grace of G-d go I.” It means, it could have easily been me, my friends, or, in this case, my great-grandmother. Thankfully, it wasn’t anybody in my family. I’m here as testimony to that. I’m talking about the horrible fire that happened in a shirtwaist factory in New York City.Sisters and mothers and daughters, and friends worked together in that factory and at the turn of the century-the early 20th Century-it was part of the bustling clothing and apparel industry in Lower Manhattan. But, on March 25th, 1911 a fire broke out; exits were blocked; fabric dust ignited; women were burned alive or died trying to escape from the flames and lives were lost. It only took 30 minutes for 146 to perish.
I stumbled upon a website streetpictures.org/chalk. Here you can find the places where the women lived. If you walk around Manhattan, on March 25th you’ll be able to see where they lived as other women commemorate their lives, and also, their tragic deaths, in chalk, on the sidewalks by their addresses. Women are volunteering to write on the sidewalks. I wish I could be there to help. Perhaps it’s because many of the dead were immigrants, or the children of immigrants who had few choices as to where they could earn the money they needed to help their families make ends meet. They made things with their own hands, in America, working for the American dream. It could have been somebody I loved. It wasn’t. I am lucky.