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40 People Hurt at Strauses’ Memorial

This article was published in the Yiddish-language Forward on April 24, 1912.

Yesterday evening, a memorial was to be held for Mr. and Mrs. [Isidor] Straus, who died tragically on the Titanic. It was to occur at the Educational Alliance on East Broadway at the corner of Jefferson Street. Mr. Straus was president of the Educational Alliance and therefore was quite popular on the East Side.

The meeting was well advertised over the last few days, and Jewish committee members traveled to New York from New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and other neighboring states to attend.

Although the meeting was called for 8 p.m., the public started gathering there several hours earlier. By 3 p.m., men and women, who arrived at that time purposely to get the best seats as soon as the doors opened, lined the sidewalk in front of the building.

The line grew quickly, and at around 5 p.m., there were already 10,000 people there. As the line grew longer, it went from one door on East Broadway to Jefferson Street to Madison Avenue and from the other door it crossed East Broadway to Clinton Street. Around 7 p.m., the sea of people had stretched to 40,000 and the congestion was horrible. And the sea of people kept growing. There was a fear of people getting crushed or trampled in such a mass of people. However, pickpockets were able to work swiftly through such a crushed pack of people.

The fence on the Jefferson Street side of the building cracked and fell more than 15 feet, deep into the crowd. An ambulance arrived but no one had been seriously injured.

The Arrangements Committee was afraid for people’s lives. Police from three stations were called. The police couldn’t contain the waves of humanity and weren’t able to move them over to one side when the doors were supposed to open. It became clear that when they would open the crush of people trying to get inside the hall would trample people due to the pressure of the crowd. Thus, the Arrangements Committee was forced to postpone the memorial, explaining that since the hall was too small for such a large crowd, they would find another locale for the meeting that could handle that capacity.

The oversized crowd couldn’t turn itself away easily and people were pushing, trying to tear themselves out of the jammed-in crowd in order to find some air. That was impossible. The police had a difficult task organizing the crowd’s retreat. The police also had a hard job fighting with so many pickpockets and taking down the complaints of those who had been robbed. Throughout the mayhem, mothers ran about trying to find their children in the crowd.

Finally, after quite a while, at 8 p.m., the Madison Street police station was besieged by those who had been robbed and who had come there to complain, and also by mothers looking for the children they had lost in the crowd.

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