One hundred years after New York's tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a new HBO documentary, "Triangle: Remembering The Fire," looks at this landmark incident.
On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Asch Building on the edge of Washington Square Park. The factory garment workers, mainly young immigrant women and teenage girls, toiled under horrific conditions. The women worked elbow to elbow, with barely an inch of room to spare.
As the fire engulfed the upper floors of the Triangle Waist Company, 146 workers were burned alive or forced to jump to their deaths to escape the fiery inferno.
Since it would be costly and there were no laws in place forcing them to do so, the building's owners never bothered to take the proper safety precautions, like installing sprinklers which would have saved many lives.
The tragedy changed the course of history, paving the way for the modern day labor movement.
The events surrounding the fire itself and the recollections of relatives several generations removed is powerful and moving.
My only complainant is that the documentary is too short. At 40 minutes, it seems that the long-reaching effects of this landmark piece of history and how it changed many labor laws and safety codes was hurried, and in the process gets shortchanged.
Ric Burns' multi-part "New York" documentary does a more in-depth job of examining the long-reaching aftermath.
Still, it's a fascinating history lesson that needs to be told. The filmmakers do an excellent job with the portion of the story that they do decide to concentrate on, and it has much relevance today.
"Triangle: Remembering The Fire" premieres on March 21 on HBO.
Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 3 Apples