Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, 100 years later


Anna Pidone

Job: Forelady

9th floor

Interview: September 10, 1957

Mary Leventhal and I had paid all the people on the 9th floor. We went from machine to machine and gave out the pay envelopes. I went over near the freight elevator where the button was and rang the bell for everybody to stop work at 4:45, that was the end of the day.

I didn't know there was a fire and I went to the dressing room. Suddenly someone ran to the dressing room and cried "Fire". I came out of the dressing room and saw everything was in flames. I ran to the front door and the door was locked. Many people began to go to the windows to jump from the windows.

My sister was age 25. She worked with me on the 9th floor as an examiner. During the time we were running around to get out I kept hollering for her but I could not find her for even a minute.

The people began to throw themselves out of the windows. All the machines were bubbling with flames. I had my fur coat and hat with two feathers and a green woolen skirt which I pulled over my hat and my head. I know I ran to the windows but then I backed away. I know I was all wet but it could not have been from the firemen's hose. I cannot remember whether I wet myself with a pail of water or somebody threw it at me. I ran back toward the freight elevator through the open aisle which was the last aisle after the machines and I went to the back staircase door. I remember there was a big barrel of oil near that door and when I opened the door and ran through and began to go down the staircase I heard a loud bursting noise. Maybe the barrel of oil exploded.

The big hat the girls gave me.

When I went to the window I made the sign of the cross and was ready to jump but I didn't have the courage.

I remember also that one of the persons who came back later that afternoon to get pay and died in the fire was somebody that was supposed to get married on Sunday.

I went down the staircase, all the way down to the hall downstairs and I didn't meet a soul, not a single soul. I remember when I went past the 8th floor I looked through the door and all I could see was one mass of fire. The wind was blowing up the staircase and the fire was going the other way. When I got downstairs I was cold and wet and I remember a man who was looking for his sister and gave me his coat.

We lived at 437 E. 12th St. I came out on the Greene St. side stunned and this man who was looking for his sister looked into my face. My face was all black from the smoke of the fire.

I went home in a daze. A man took me home.

On the way going home I met my brother and he began to ask right away "where is Mary" Mary Forresta ?

He ran back and tried to look for her. They could not find her but later that night some friends identified her. When we had the funeral for the family she lay in her casket and she looked very very pretty but she was a heavy girl and every bone in her body had been broken when she fell down from the fire escape. For months after that I used to begin to shake everytime I heard a fire engine.

There was a lawyer from St. Paul Bldg. - a lawyer O'Neil and he made my case. I was on the stand for 2 1/2 hours. The lawyer Steuer kept trying to catch me. Every once in a while he said how many times did you open the door, and everytime I yelled back at him, I never could open it - it was always locked. Only the back door was open. Then he would ask me again and again when you opened the door, when you saved yourself, did you open it out or did you open it in and one time I screamed back at him, I could not open it at all.

Eleven jurors were in my favor but one disagreed. It was a separate case. I sued for $25,000 (Case apparently ended with a hung jury).

Harris & Blank were very nice to me but I lost my sister in that fire and I know the door was locked. When they came out of the court they were surrounded by the cops on all sides.

I think 13 men were killed in the fire. One of them was Jake Klein, an operator who was very handsome.

I never knew about the fire escape. We used to use the freight elevator only.

I used to help check any bundles that the people would carry out after we rang the bell. I would ask them what was in the package. We generally ate at the machines but there were places to eat on Greene St.

The fire danced on the machines.

There were piled up boxes against the door. There were too many in the windows.

I knew about the staircase in the back because I used it for my work as a forelady; sometimes I went to the 8th floor to the cutters for re-cuts of damages. Sometimes I went to the 10th floor for trimmings but the others never used the staircase.

When I looked into the 8th floor, everything was burning. By the time I got to the ground floor I was dizzy and I lost my balance. I kept crying where was my sister.

We found her at 2 o'clock in the morning at the morgue. A week before I got my neighbor a job at Harris & Blank. She had 5 children. She was burned to death.