New York, NY Theatre Panic, Nov 1920
The little theater was crowded to capacity. Children filled most of the 300 seats, for the hero of the picture was an Italian lad, who rose from humble surroundings. The youngsters were absorbed in the progress of the hero, Pletco (?) who was protecting his father from thieves, when smoke began to seep through the cracks in the theater floor.
â€œMy God! It's a fire!â€
This shout came from an elderly woman, who gathered a little one under her arm and ran for the nearest exit. Immediately loud wails arose, children began to cry.
They jumped from their seats, jammed the aisles and fought for passage. The lights flickered out.
Youthful cries attracted many residents of the Italian neighborhood. CAMILLO BRUILLO, who sells bananas from a push cart on the Bowery, rushed to the scene. He darted into the theater, attempted to shout down the cries. Failing, he saved those he could. CAMILLO carried more than 15 tots to safety, then collapsed, overcome by smoke.
Someone sounded a fire alarm. Many then were carried from the theater, overcome by smoke. They soon revived. Firemen carried the dead to nearby drug stores. The injured were sent to hospitals.
Frantic men and women â€“ learning of the disaster, crowded before the little theater, guarded by a cordon of police.
BERNARD WEINBERG and MAX SCHWARTZ, proprietors of the theater, were taken to the police station and later questioned by the district attorney. They said they purchased the theater last week and had been operating it since Saturday. They were held pending an investigation of charges that one of the front exits of the theater was locked.
DISGIFURED BEYOND RECOGNITION
(International News Service)
NEW YORK, Nov. 14 â€“ Arms and legs woven into a tight human matting. Arms were seized and wrenched out of sockets. Legs were broken. The little ones were stamped upon until little semblance of humanity remained.
The dead are:
TESSIE GUIDLEN, aged 8; ELMIRA ALPINI, 13; JOSEPH RAMIOLA, 11; JOSEPH LOMBARDI, 2; DOMINICO MAISCALLO, 2; PASQUALE COMINI.
In the hospitals 10 children are suffering from broken limbs and one from a general fracture of the skull. In the homes nearby are scores who received minor injuries.
The theater is a small brick structure, standing in the heart of a densely populated district. It is only a stone's throw from Chatham Square where the streets of Chinatown, Bowery, New Bowery and Park Row converge. The district is populated by Italians and Greeks in the main.
In front of the theater ironically enough, hangs a sign, â€œChildren under 10 you're not admitted except when accompanied by a guardian.â€
The theater seats about 350 persons.
A galley is horseshoe position extends over the orchestra at the theater.
No Balcony Exits.
There are no exits in the balcony and on the ground floor there are two, one of which those seated in the orchestra could use, and the other, which is situated at the foot of a staircase, leading down from the gallery.
It was on this staircase that the fatalities occurred. The hundred children and adults seated in the horseshoe hurried themselves down the steps, in this wild rush several tripped and fell. Atop of them piled the others.
The pile of struggling humanity, jammed against the door. It is not known yet whether the door was shut or whether it opened inward and was unable to function because of the rush against it.
To add to the chaos, hundreds from the crowded nearby tenements rushed to the doorways to see what was taking place.
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