Originally published in the Forverts on March 27, 1911
How They Leaped To Their Deaths
It took half an hour for it all to end. On the street below, on sidewalks, and in surrounding cellars, bodies lay crushed, clothes torn and blood-stained. And above, on the three highest floors of the “fireproof” factory building, a mountain of the deceased lay, burned to cinder. For the hundreds of police and firefighters, there remained nothing to do aside from covering the corpses in sheets or blankets and sending them to the morgue.
Most of the victims were young women between the ages of 16 and 25, impossible to save. The only thing left for those unfortunates to do was choose between two ways of dying: either be smashed on the stones of the street below or burn to death in the hellish factory flames above.
About 50 of them chose the first and perhaps easier option. They pitched downward out of the windows on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors. From all sides, one after the other, they flew down, many of them engulfed in flames, and were left lying burned and torn, each in a small river of blood.
Those standing below who were present at this horrifying scene remained frozen in terror. A few of the young women fell and broke through a thick glass canopy over the sidewalk, landing deep in the basements full of water from the fire engines. Most of them flipped over several times while airborne before reaching the ground. One young woman on the eighth floor slowly removed her hat, placed it on the window ledge, and subsequently hurled herself to her death.
On the Greene Street side of the building, one could see a man on the ninth floor running along the windows, lifting one young woman after another up and flinging them downward. It’s likely he hoped they would be caught below. When he had flung down the last young woman, he himself crawled out of the window and jumped. He then lay dead.
The Last Two Victims
A few minutes after the last of the leaping, two young women suddenly appeared at the windows on the ninth floor. One of them, the younger of the two, appeared half-crazed from fear.
She screamed and made a move to jump.
From below, people motioned to the two not to leap and the older one struggled for a few seconds with the younger girl. Finally, the struggle came to an end with the younger woman screaming, jumping to the sidewalk.
Observing her friend’s death below, the older girl stood like a statue on the window for a few seconds. Holding her skirt with both hands, she peered skyward, but soon a black smoke cloud came through the window and flames surrounded her.
She motioned with her hands as though arguing with someone, or trying to talk to them. The fire reached her hair and started burning her clothing. She turned back to face the shop as if fearful of the height and threw herself out that way. She fell not far from her friend. An hour later, as they came to gather the corpses, she was still breathing. By the time they lifted her body off the ground, however, she was already dead.
Five Young Women Hold Each Other and Leap as One
Five young women stood at one window screaming for help. Firefighters attempted to rescue them. They placed a ladder by their wall and tried to climb to reach them. As they reached the sixth floor, they stopped. The ladder was too short. The women looked down and the firefighters told them to “go back and find another way to save yourselves.” It was then that the five unfortunate, helpless women held each other and, with a cry that pierced the heavens, flung themselves together to the ground. They crashed through the thick canopy of glass covering the sidewalk and sank deeply into a cellar. It was two hours before they could be removed. They were bound together by congealed blood.
Waves ‘Good-Bye’ and Leaps to Death
One young woman waved to the crowds below with her handkerchief. She bade them “good-bye.” As she fell, her dress got caught on some wire. She hung in the air that way until flames burned her clothing and her burned corpse fell like a big black ember.
The firefighters spread out nets to catch the women, but the falling corpses tore through them as they fell. Everyone who leaped WAS flung into the arms of a horrifying death.
A 13-Year-Old Girl Stands on the Window Ledge Till Her Fingers Start to Burn
A 13-year-old girl stood by the 10th story window, hanging onto the wooden ledge with her slender fingers. Her entire body hung in the air. She held on that way for three minutes. At that point, a long tongue of flame began burning her fingers and she let go of the window and fell.
Just as she landed on the sidewalk, five people could be seen in a window, appearing like one family unit. First one saw a man and, next to him, a thirty-year-old woman and behind them, three young women. The youngest was not older than 18. They flung themselves down, one after another. The 18 year old fell down on top of the corpse of the older woman. When they lifted her off, she was still living. Quickly, they brought her to a hall. A doctor rushed in and as soon as he glanced at her he mumbled: “…she’s dead.”