photo via wikipedia
Photos by Fred Hardwell
I had meant to attend the 100 Year Memorial of the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire in Manhattan on Friday, March 25th, but missed it at the last minute and put it out of my mind. But that day, I received an email from reader Fred Hardwell, pointing out that one of the 146 young immigrant victims of this horrific fire lived at 160 Columbia Street. He had come across a tribute to 17-year old Laura Brunetti right in front of the spot were she once lived. It was left there by artist Ruth Sergel of Street Pictures and founder of CHALK, a yearly commemoration of the Triangle Factory Fire.
Fred Hardwell wrote to me:
Saw this on chalk mark on the bike lane on Columbia Street....took my breath away. The house is not there anymore, that section of the street is part of the Port Authority. 100 years ago this 17 year old went to work and never came home. I wondered if it was a chilly morning like the ones we have been having. Did she think about going back into the house and getting heavier clothing like I did. Was she running late without breakfast like me? After a long day at work, just before the end of the shift, the fire started on the 8th floor. 147 women and girls died that day in NYC 100 years ago. And one lived in our neighborhood. Completely forgotten now, except for this one moment.I rode past it again this morning and thought of young Laura Brunetti. I am thinking that even after the chalk is washed away by rain and maybe snow tomorrow, I will still think of the start of the last day of her life, as she walked down Columbia Street, 100 years ago this last week. It's humbling.
I had wanted to put this post up much earlier, but I hope you will forgive me, Fred. Thank you so much for making me aware of this. I looked for some more information and found out that Laura was born in 1892 in Italy. During the fire, she jumping out of the building and died of her injuries. Laura is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery (Section St. Michael, Range 69, Grave 58.)
Another 17-year old, Francesca Caputo of 81 Degraw Street also died in the fire that day.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a more permanent memorial for both Laura and Franscesca in the neighborhood? Anyone interested in coming up with an idea and making it happen?