The Chalk Project: Remembering the Triangle Fire 101 Years Later
On Sunday, people from all walks of life paused to remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 101 years after one of New York’s most devastating tragedies. Every year since 2004, volunteers have chalked the names of the victims on sidewalks across the city. During the weekend, the Stanton Street Shul participated in this relatively new tradition, saying Kaddish for the dead and chalking in memory of the Rosen family, who lived at 78 Clinton Street.
Yenta Laureate, who sent us these photos, explained: “Julia Rosen, was a widowed mother and new immigrant who had worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in order to earn the money to send for her 14 year old son, Israel, who was still in Europe. Once he came to New York, (Israel) then worked with her there.”
The chalking began in front of the Stanton Street Shul, and continued at 78 Clinton, where the Lower East Side’s varied cultures intersect:
Two of the extraordinary interactions we had today were with separate pairs of French visitors to New York. The first pair, chalked their (memories) of the killings that took place last week in France by writing in front of the Shul… (next to) what we had already chalked for the Triangle Fire… A number of neighborhood passersby joined in and/or talked to us. Some people joined by simply chalking their names next to the word “Remember.” (A) Fujianese grocery story owner, lit the Yahrzeit memorial candle and told us about unsafe factories in China… While many just passed us by, many people took time (from) running their errands on Clinton Street to talk to us. One person sat for almost an hour making a chalk artwork. An elderly Puerto Rican man… who had once been a grade school teacher came back twice after talking to us. (On the sidewalk he wrote): “We Are With You.” The second time he came back in order to give us Goya cookies… One middle aged African American man told us that he had recently attended a memorial for those who perished in the Happy Land Social Club (fire) and chalked about that. These equations of memory were extremely powerful. Then, a long-time member of the Shul passed by and talked to us; decided to chalk, and wrote “You Live For Ever” after first lighting a memorial candle.