Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, 100 years later


Eraclio Montanaro

Not a Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Employee

Witnessed fire from street.

Interview: February 3, 1958

My friend and I worked in a tailor shop on 4th Avenue, and 11th St. That day when we stopped after a half day's work, it was such a nice day, like in April, that we decided to take a walk to Broadway and Canal. When we came to Wanamakers we turned into Waverly Place. We heard an uproar and we saw people running so we ran too. Then we saw what was happening at the corner of Washington and Greene Sts. For a while we couldn't move. We watched in horror how bunches of women came hurtling down from the top stories of the building. The firemen were helpless. The nets were ripped from the hands. Many stooped and picked up the nets again with their hands bleeding. My friend collapsed and started to cry like a woman. All around us we saw people covered with blood. I got sick and could not look any more.

I ran home to Henry St. I don't know how. The whole night I could not sleep and in the morning I was restless. I went to Chatham Square. I rode all the way uptown to the Bronx Park and all the time I felt like my chest was going to burst. I got out in Bronx Park where the river went through the woods and the whole day long I ran along the edges of that river like a crazy man; like a wild animal.

About a year ago, I brought the letter into you and I was with my wife.

You know, when we left, we made a special trip downtown to Washington St. I went to look for the building but at first I could not find it and we walked around the street looking at all the buildings. Then I thought I found it and I went into some of the stores and asked if anybody knew if that was the building where the fire was in 1911. Some of the storekeepers told me yes so I went back to the corner. My wife and I stood across the street and we looked up at the building and I think I could hear the girls screaming again and see the fire burning. We stayed there for some time. Some people came over and asked what we were looking up for so I told them that there was once a fire there and two of the people who asked knew about the fire.

You know the building is now New York University.