EXTRA!!! Read all about NYC's worst disaster prior to 9/11.
Dec 13, 2008
The first decade of the twentieth century in this country was marked by a number of tragic fires. In 1903 more than 600 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago. Later in the decade more than 200 men perished in a coal mine fire in Cherry, Ill. "Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum" chronicles the worst fire of them all. In fact, the fire aboard the steamship General Slocum was the worst disaster in New York City history prior to 9/11!
Author Edward O'Connell chronicles the events of that tragic June day in 1904 when more than 1000 New Yorkers lost their lives. What made this event quite unique was that virtually all of the passengers on the General Slocum that fateful day came from the same neighborhood. The steamboat had been chartered by a Lutheran church group for an excursion to Long Island. Just try to imagine the devasting impact this tragedy had on that community!!! The victims were mostly women and children. Entire families were wiped out. This fire would prove to be atragedy of monumental proportions!
In a very engaging and well written book, O'Donnell introduces us to the heroes and villains involved. His research was exhaustive and he brings to life many of the central figures. Read all about the owner of the ship and his strategy to avoid prosecution. And then there were the government officials charged with inspecting the boat for safety violations. It becomes quite apparent that this tragedy did not have to happen. As is the case in most tragedies like this a few greedy individuals put profit ahead of safety. At the same time, many heroes would emerge from this calamity. "Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum" grabbed my attention in the opening pages and simply never let go. Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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There were few experienced swimmers among over 1,300 Lower East Side residents who boarded the General Slocum on June 15, 1904. It shouldn't have mattered, since the steamship was chartered only for alanguid excursion from Manhattan to Long Island Sound. But a fire erupted minutes into the trip, forcing hundreds of terrified passengers into the water. By the time the captain found a safe shore for landing, 1,021 had perished. Ship Ablaze draws on firsthand accounts to examine why the death toll was so high and how the city responded. Masterfully capturing both the horror of the event and the heroism of men, women, and children who faced crumbling life jackets and inaccessible lifeboats as the inferno quickly spread, historian Edward T. O'Donnell brings to life a bygone community while honoring the victims of that forgotten day.