In striking contrast to the movements of Lindsay Lohan’s mother or Paris Hilton’s dog, there has been nary a peep over this horrific situation going on in Chile. For almost three weeks, 33 miners have remained beneath the rubble from a collapsed mine in a Chilean mountainside. Introduction of a video camera into the mine showed what none imagined: 33 miners who appear to be alive and healthy! Chilean officials, though, are saying the rescue could be “as long as four months,” digging “a new tunnel wide enough to lift the miners, one-by-one to the surface.” The miners are more than 2,000 feet underground, according to The New York Times. This mining disaster in Chile brings up all kinds of memories from my home state of New York.
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory: When people imagine loss of life and New York City, the obvious comparison is 9/11. However, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were not an industrial accident; they were a terrorist attack. Many may be surprised to hear that the biggest loss of life from an industrial accident actually took place 99 years ago: the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
On March 25, 1911, “the Triangle shirtwaist factory took the lives of 146 garment workers – most of them women, most of them Jewish and Italian immigrants, most of the heartbreakingly young,” reported the New York Times earlier this March.
There were a compendium of things which went wrong with this fire; perhaps the most shocking was that the “locked doors prevented many of these (low paid seamstresses) from fleeing to safety.” To add insult to injury of a city of growing skyscrapers, the FDNY, who arrived in short order, only had their “tallest ladders (which) reached only to the sixth floor.” The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was on the 8th floor. Sadly, many of these women jumped to escape the flame to their death on the concrete below (a horrible reminder of our building upwards, though skyscraper safety still didn’t save many who took the same end on 9/11).
While this Chile situation remains in our minds, the fact remains that these workers may not get out until Christmas. That’s too long; there need to be fail safes put in place so that things like this don’t happen. But, just like we keep building tall buildings and don’t have 107 floor FDNY ladders, this looks to be one of those events which will escape definition. People will keep mining, and incidents like this will happen again. Much the same as we keep building tall buildings and everyone cheers, until some tragedy happens and we all wonder aloud why they didn’t build bigger ladders.