Washington, DC Fords Theater Collapse, Jun 1893
Both the military and naval authorities took prompt action. General Schofield ordered two troops, of cavalry from Fort Meyer, just across the river, and two companies of infantry from the arsenal to the scene of the disaster. The Secretary of the Navy ordered out all the naval medical officers, and also opened the Naval Hospital to receive the injured.
Those who were early on the scene found the body of a colored man in the alley in the rear of the building where John Wilkes Booth had his horse tethered the night he killed President Lincoln. This was GEORGE M. ARNOLD, a colored clerk. He had been seen at a third story window. He had been warned not to jump, but, despite the protestations of numbers of people, he climbed out, and lowering himself from the sill, let go. He fell upon a covering at a lower door and slid off into the cobble-stoned alley, striking on his head. He was instantly killed.
One of the bravest and most daring acts was performed by BASIL LOCKWOOD, a colored boy, nineteen or twenty years of age. As soon as the floors collapsed and the dust cleared away, realizing the danger of those at the rear windows, who were wildly climbing out and calling for aid, he climbed up a large telegraph pole as high as the third story and lashed a ladder to the pole, putting the other end in the window. By this means ten or fifteen were assisted down the ladder in safety. None of those who escaped injury could tell which of the floors first gave way.
There were many very narrow escapes from death. A number of clerks whose desks rested directly upon the line where the floors broke away, saved themselves, while the desks at which they sat were precipitated down the awful chasm. Others who were walking across the room heard an ominous sound and stopped just at the very threshold of death. When the crash came those who survived heard a great scream of anguish from their comrades as they sank out of sight, and then groping in the darkness, they found their way to safety, trembling in every limb, and with the pallor of the dead in their faces.
One of the most thrilling scenes of the whole affair was the sight of a dozen men who were left in a corner of the third story clambering down a hose pipe to the ground.
Captain DOWD, of Indiana, was found near the southwest corner of the building, covered to a depth of two or three feet with brick and mortar. He had lain their for three hours, but a falling beam had lodged near him in such a position as to break the fall of the brick and timbers, and when lifted up he raised his hand, showing that he was conscious. When he was lifted into the Garfield Hospital ambulance the crowd saw that he was alive, and cheered again and again.
Every few minutes during the first two hours after the accident, dead and wounded men were taken out of the debris. All the carts and workmen that could be secured were pressed into service to clear away the debris. The laborers did not cease their efforts until about 7 o'clock. By this time they had reached the bottom of the excavation in the basement, and further search seemed useless, as the debris in all parts of the building had been entirely cleared away. The work was therefore stopped, the streets roped close to the building, and a police guard placed there for the night.
The President was informed of the accident just as he reached the entrance to the White House, and he at once interested himself in relief measures. At a meeting called by order of Commissioner Ross, $5500 was subscribed, of which President Cleveland contributed $100. Brief addresses were made by Bishop J. F. Hurst, Rev. William Aloin Bartlett, and Smith Thompson, a seventy-two year old clerk, who escaped from the ruins.
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