Across the neighborhood yesterday, people of all ages were “chalking” in memory of the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The tragedy happened 102 years ago in Greenwich Village but many of those killed lived on the Lower East Side. One group started at the Neighborhood School, 120 East 3rd Street. Vivian Sorenson and Gary Meister, as well as their photographer friend, Heidi Gutman, shared some photos from the morning’s activities with us.
Three young Triangle Fire victims – all East 3rd Street residents – were memorialized in chalk: Jennie Stein (18), Fannie Hollander (18), Rosie Brenman (23) and Sarah Brenman (18). Vivian Sorenson has a personal connection to the fire, one of the worst workplace tragedies in this country’s history.
Sarah Sorenson, her grandmother, would ordinarily have been toiling away in the factory. But because she had a day off from work, Sarah’s life was spared. Vivien tells us, “this day changed her whole life and she became one of the youngest members of the (International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union), and spent her life fighting for social justice.”
The chalk project is the brainstorm of artist Ruth Sergel. Since 2004, volunteers have been marking the Trinagle anniversary, “chalking the names and ages of the victims in front of their former homes.” The Neighborhood School got involved this year through the efforts of Tyler Domino, who teaches there. Vivian and Gary’s child, Zoe, is in his 3rd grade class.