NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Descendants of the victims and strangers alike held banners with the names of the young women killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire more than 100 years ago.
A memorial was held in Greenwich Village on Wednesday to mark the 102nd anniversary of the fatal fire.
An FDNY bell tolled 146 times as each of the victims’ names were read aloud. Among those who died that day were Vincent Maltese’s grandmother Katarina and his aunts Lucia and Rosaria, who were just 14 years old.
“I knew about it always, but when I was about 20 or 21 I decided to come and look at the building. One of those things, I had to do it. I come every year,” Maltese told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
He said the annual event is a memorial but also a call to action.
“We have to find new ways of fighting high-rise fires,” Maltese said.
The March 25, 1911 factory fire led to better working conditions in factories throughout the city and the development of fire codes.
The victims were largely young, immigrant women working in the factory. At about 4:45 p.m. — just 15 minutes before closing time — a fire broke out on the 8th floor.
At least 120 of the garment workers were either burned alive or jumped to their deaths from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the sweatshop near Washington Square Park. Many of the victims jumped to their deaths after finding fire doors locked and fire escapes leading nowhere.
It was all over in just 30 minutes.
“It’s all about power and greed and irresponsibility,” historian Robin Burson told Diamond. “Society has to pull together to protect people who can’t protect themselves.”
A public art project has been commissioned to memorialize the victims on the site of the deadly fire.
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