Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, 100 years later


Rose Indursky

Job: Sleeve setter

9th floor

Interview: September 19, 1957

Mrs. Indursky at the start of the interview told of a recent incident In the shop where she works in which a fire inspector had come into the factory and approached a section of the shop where she and another woman were working. One of the women was smoking and the fireman came over and cautioned her, whereupon the woman laughed and said "anyhow nothing could happen." The fireman repeated "don't be so sure, do you remember the Triangle Fire." At this point Mrs. Indursky said she felt goose pimples on her arm and turned to the fireman and said, "Maybe she doesn't remember it, but I was in it."

For a long time after the fire I used to have nightmares and shake in my sleep when I dreamt of it. Many times during the day, if I would hear a fire engine I would begin to feel faint and I remember a long time after when we used to have fire drills, every time there was a fire drill I used to get sick.

You know the company held in one week's pay -- then we had to go get the pay. Many were afraid to come for the pay but it was only when we went to the University Place shop to get our pay that we began to see who was saved. While we were waiting we saw a father, mother, sister or brother and we asked who was dead and who was alive; so we knew. I was 16 years old at the time.

When the fire began to rush on our floor we wanted to jump out of the window at first but somehow I kept my head while the others were fighting in the dark from the smoke. I kept saying to myself what all the greenhorns used to say, that in America they don't allow one to burn. I ran to the freight elevator side. The door there was open. When I got there the fire was all around me. The elevator had come up and the elevator man said there is a fire but he then went to the 10th floor for the bosses.

I was a sleeve setter. That day everybody couldn't wait to go home. There was a Ball or something and everybody was going.

When I went out into the hall staircase I bent down and looked downstairs and I could see the fire come up. In the shop the girls were running around with their hair burning.

First I ran into the dressing room with the machinist and some of the others. Then the walls in the dressing room began to smoke. The machinist had a wild look in his eye. We ran back into the shop; girls were lying on the floor, fainted, and people were stepping on them. Some of the other girls were trying to climb over the machines. I remember the machinist ran to the window and he smashed it to let the smoke that was choking us go out. Instead, the flames rushed in. I stood at the window; across the street people were hollering "don't jump, don't jump." I turned around and ran to the hall staircase door. My hair was smoldering -- my clothes were torn. I put my two hands on my smoldering hair and ran up the stairs. I went into the 10th floor. Nobody was there except one man, bookkeeper. He was picking up papers and he hollered to me, can you come to the roof, can you come to the roof. By that time, all the windows on the 10th floor were burning. My life was saved on account of the bookkeeper. I didn't know that the next floor was the roof. I think if not for him I would have stayed on the 10th floor and maybe had been killed.

I was only afraid that somebody would tell my mother what had happened -- she was still in Bialistok.

When I got into the street, it was black with people -- there was screaming all around. My clothing was all torn.

I lived on Messerole St. When I finally got back I went to my aunt's house. My aunt and uncle were older people. I fell across the bed and I lay there crying while they reprimanded me for acting like a wild animal. I smelled from smoke. I told them I was in a fire but how could they understand how terrible the fire was.

I later went to work for Harris & Blank in the University Fl. shop

We could not open the front elevator door. Boxes next to the door made a narrow passage. Barrels near the freight stairway hall were filled with oil. They caught fire and must have blocked the way for others to escape.

I didn't know there was a fire escape.

We crossed from the roof into a window or door across the alley way. They put boards across. At the trial, all I could say was I did not know. I was scared and did not understand.

When the fire started I was sitting at my machine. I got up and I ran. Many of the girls were caged in by wicker baskets.

On the roof, I tried to hold back one girl who finally tore away from us and ran back downstairs to look for her sister.

There was one girl on the roof who had saved herself by wrapping white goods all around her. She still had some of the goods around her.