Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bridge Disaster, May 1883

Brooklyn Bridge in 1899

When the pressure had become relieved a frightful scene was presented at the fatal stairway. The dead and dying were wedged together in a mass, and the bodies were piled four or five deep.
The first person pulled out was a stout woman, who had worn a blue dress. Shreds of the dress were hanging to the waistband, but every particle of her clothing from the waist down had been torn away. Singularly enough, the woman was only slightly hurt, and the gentleman who was with her escaped with a few bruises and the loss of his hat. Taking off his torn coat, he wrapped it around the woman, and the two then hurried off the bridge together. Another man was pulled out of the writhing mass almost unhurt, while the child he held in his arms was terribly crushed. A little boy was taken out with his legs badly hurt, but, forgetting his pain, he kept crying out, "Save my papa! Oh, save my papa!" Then a man struggled loose from the human pile in the stairway, seized the child, covered his face with kisses, and hurried off with the little fellow in his arms. Many of the less severely wounded made their way down planks which workmen had leaned against the railings into the roadways, where they walked away or were helped into passing wagons and carried off the bridge.

When the panic occurred fifteen men belonging to Company A, Twelfth Regiment, and under the command of Lieutenant HART, were on the southern drive. The soldiers, in prompt obedience to an order from the Lieutenant, climbed over the railing, and while some of them helped to remove the dead and injured, others scaled the iron girders above the railroad and helped to keep the crowd back on the Brooklyn side of the stairway. Bridge policemen and employees ran to the spot from all directions and did what they could to assist the sufferers. Drivers of wagons who were crossing the bridge left their vehicles and ran to offer assistance, and in a very few moments after the panic reached its height scores of men were hard at work trying to save life. The iron girders which partially inclosed[sic] the railway on either side of the promenade above the stairway served as footholds for many rescuers, and good use was made of them. Men and women held their children above their heads, and the little ones were seized by men clinging to the girders and quickly passed to other men who carried them out of harm's way. A large number of men and women were pulled out in the same way, some of them with their clothing torn to shreds and several of them more or less badly bruised and crushed. One woman who had been rescued shouted frantically for her children, and a moment later her two boys were rescued and given into her care. Although the loss of life occurred at the stairway, the crush of people was as great just above the steps, and the scene there was indescribable. Hats, canes, umbrellas and packages were thrown away. The women seemed helpless, while men stood yelling and shouting, and too bewildered to climb up on the girders when they had the chance. It was out of this struggling crowd that the rescuers on the girders saved scores of children and helped many grown persons to save themselves.

A dense crown was assembled in front of the Chambers street Hospital last night until a late hour. Early in the evening ambulances and dead wagons were driving up bringing more victims from the scene of the disaster, and the crowds pressed so closely about the doors that the police were obliged to drive them back with drawn clubs. Inside the hospital a sad spectacle was presented. Mothers were sobbing over their dead children and anxious men and women were going from pallet to pallet looking for lost children or husbands, wives, mothers or fathers. One stolid looking German approached a stretcher upon which was the dead body of a woman. Bending over the body he commenced to talk to it, when he was informed that the woman was dead. "No, she is not dead; she is warm," he replied. But he was soon convinced, and turning coolly on his heel without expressing the slightest emotion, he said: 'She is my wife," and then sauntered leisurely out of the room.

One of the most terrible cases among the injured was a girl of about fourteen years of age, who was found under a number of heavy bodies, but still alive. On the way to the hospital she was taken with convulsions, and it was found necessary to strap her to the bed. One convulsion followed another, and her screams and groans could be heard all through the building. Upon another pallet was a woman of some 60 or 65 years of age, who was suffering from severe nervous shock, and keeping three strong men busy to hold her down upon the bed. She was not expected to live, as it was believed she had received severe internal injuries. The

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