Sunday, July 10, 2011

Find Walsh's Body in Equitable Ruins,

January 14, 1912, New York Times,"Find Walsh's Body in Equitable Ruins,"

Dead Fire Chief Borne in Solemn Procession of Firemen to the Street.

Start Fund For Survivors.

Business Houses Also Arrange for a General Relief Fund for Firemen and Police.

The body of Battalian Chief Walsh, after lying buried under masses of ice and wreakage in the ruins of the Equitable Building for more than four days, was found yesterday afternoon by workmen. Nearly every bone in the Chief's body was broken, but his face, protected by his helmet, alone remained unmarred. On the face, it was said, although frozen in solid ice, were the signs of utter despair and indescribable horror.

Search for the Chief's body had been going on continuously since the very start of the fire. He had been seen alive last by Sidney Johnson, one of the crew of fourteen firemen whom Chief Walsh had bravely led into the fourth floor of the building at about 7 o'clock on the morning of the fire. Johnson had said that the Chief had been the last to leave the fourth floor, and that, while warning his men to seek safety, he had been seen to waver on the staircase between the third and fourth floors.

Following that there had been a crashing of floors, which resulted in the sudden creation of a fifty-foot pyramid of wreakage that the workmen had dug for four days for the missing Chief.

Fifty workmen, under the direction of the Thompson-Starrett Construction Company, working at the instance of the Building Department's orders, had attacked this pyramid of stone, steel, plaster, and the remains of marble staircases from both the top and the bottom. They had sawed steel girders into small sections to penetrate the tangle, and at night they had used searchlights, but always without avail.

Yesterday, at 12:30 p.m., a workman, spiking the icy mound from the top near the third floor level drew out with his pickaxe a piece of a rubber coat. He ran with it to Battalian Chief Martin, who was superintending the work from near the statue of James B. Hyde on the ground floor.

"That's it, that's just like my coat," shouted the Chief in horror. "Quick, dig him out!"

Deputy Chief Binns, who was directing work on the outside of the building, was also quickly summoned, and someone telephoned for the Fire Commissioner Johnson and for Chief Kenlon.

Hard Work to Remove the Body

The workmen chopped away, carefully, using smelters to thaw the ice where it was in contact with the body, which soon appeared under the fragment of the rubber coat. Little by little, hemmed between heavy girders, the body of a man came into view. Boards were used to shore up the icy sides of the pyramid, and soon the work of evacuating was confined to an area about 10 feet square.

For four hours the men worked with axes, picks steel saws, and smelters. The face of the body was at last uncovered, and by that time Commissioner Johnson and Chief Kenlon, as well as fifty firemen of the Second Division, of which Chief Walsh had been the commander, had arrived.

When the face was turned to the light and the stiff helmet thawed from its lodgment, Commissioner Johnson and Chief Kenlon looked at each other for a moment, and then turned away, neither saying a word. Deputy Chief Binns and Battalian Chief Martin, and the fifty firemen who had known the dead chief so well, kneeled at the icy bier in respect to the dead. Heads were uncovered and cold hands bared, but no one said a word. Silence and ceasing of movements were the only signs by which they expressed the certainty that here at last was the body of the Chief.

Awaiting the arrival of the undertaker to whom Coroner Winterbottom, after viewing the body, had given a burial permit. Coroners' Physician T.D. Lehane approached a group of reporters and told under under what circumstances the body had been found.

"The Chief lay on his side, his head facing the corner of Pine and Nassau Streets," he said. "He was in a crouching position, his head higher than the rest of his body. His knees were drawn up. His head was leaning to one side, and no wonder, for a six-inch steel beam held it there, and extended horizontally over his chest. Another much longer and thicker steel girder lay across his entire body in a longitudinal direction.

"He didn't have a chance. His helmet was pulled down over his eyes. He had his gloves on, and his rubber coat, too. I didn't see any lantern. If he had been able to go ten feet further he could have been saved, I believe, for his body lay just that distance from the stairs leading to the second floor. But no one can tell, for perhaps he just slid down with the crashing staircase; now I recall that I saw parts of a marble staircase in the mound of wreakage from which his body was taken."

Solemn Procession in Ruins.

At exactly 4:45, the crude but impressive funeral procession wound its way to the Hyde statue on the ground floor, where the body was halted for a few minutes, while Chief Kenlon came to the small Pine Street door and ordered it smashed with axes to permit the exit of the body.

"Hats off!" was all he said to those outside.

The narrow, dark corridor leading to the rotunda where the body was resting was lighted with flaring tapers held by firemen and workmen. The scene from the Pine Street door of the building was like that of guides leading a party of underground explorers into a mine. Only, there was less noise, perhaps. The procession was moving forward, slowly.

First came Capt. Fred Mitchell, U.S.A., brother-in-law of Chief Walsh, his head held down. Chief Kenlon, dressed in a black fur overcoat, and holding his official fire cap over his left sholder in reverence, followed. Then came Deputy Chief Binns and following him came an undertaker's basket containing the body.

Eight firemen of Truck 8, most of them men who had followed their chief into the burning building last Tuesday morning, supported high on their shoulders the wicker basket. On the top of the basket were four fire helmets, the peaks hanging over the edges of the basket in the direction of the setting sun. The basket was drapped in a rubber blanket, and these were the only symbols, the only ones needed---the helmets and the fireman's rubber blanket.

Behind the pallbearers came Battalion Chief Martin, then fifty firemen of Chief Walsh's division, and in the rear the fifty workmen who had helped to unearth the Chief's body. The procession moved slowly and halted for just a moment in the narrow door. In that instant there was a flash, then a report, which reverberated in the narrow street. A volme of smoke arose. A flashlight photograph, against Chief Kenlon's specific orders, had been taken from a window in a skyscraper across the street. Chief Kenlon set his teeth in anger. The body was deposited in the undertaker's wagon and slowly driven away.

A reporter asked for the pallbearers names.

"No, no" spoke up one of them, and they went their way, their heads still uncovered, many of them weeping with unchecked emotion.

Chief Kenlon was asked to explain how the body of Chief Walsh had been found. "I can't say anything," he muttered, then walked away.

Lay at Top of the Wreakage.

Battalion Chief Martin consented to speak for a few moments. "It was fortunate," he said, "that the body lay so near the top of the wreakage. It was about six feet from the top of the mound, I should say. If it had been twenty feet further down it would have been a week before we could have found the Chief's body. The body was badly frozen, of course. The arms had to be pulled down and thawed out so as to get them into the casket. Nearly every bone in his body was broken, and the neck was probably broken the very first thing. I am glad, however, that the face was unmarred. His friends will recognize him easily."

The body was removed to an undertaker's establishment in Brooklyn, and will be taken to 1,170 Forty-second Street, Brooklyn where the Chief's widow and his six children live. No plans for the official Fire Department funeral were announced last night.

Two or perhaps three other bodies remain in the ruins, but it was said yesterday that there will be no attempt made to extricate them until the walls of the building have been torn down. One of the bodies is believed to be that of William Campian, whose hands were seen almost within reach of the gratings of one of the Broadway windows on the ground floor of the building in the afternoon of the first day of the fire.

Another body which is believed to be in the ruins near that of Campian's is that of Frank J. Neider. Both were watchmen in the employ of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, whose vaults are on the ground floor. According to Deputy Chief Binns, still another body, that of a negro cook, who had been in the employ of the Cafe Savarin, is believed to be somewhere in the ruins. This would bring the number of dead to seven.

Court Permits Demolition.

Supreme Justice Giegerich signed an order yesterday giving the Building Department permission to raze the walls of the Equitable Building. The order was based on the department's representation that the fire on Tuesday had weakened the walls, and had made the danger of their falling imminent.

Traffic was re-established in front of the destroyed building yesterday, street cars carrying thousands by the scene of the fire and as many more seeing the ruins from the west sidewalk of Broadway. The police required all to keep on a steady move, however, Guy W. Culgin, Assistent Chief Inspector of the Department of Buildings, was of the opinion that the walls were not in immediate danger of falling while the extreme cold lasted. The tearing down of the building, it was said, would be begun before the thawing process can start.

The only additional securities that were removed from the building yesterday were $70,000,000 in secured loans. These were taken from the sub-vaults of the Equitable Life Assurance Society on the mezzanine floor near the Pine Street side. According to Thomas Longfield, custodian of the Equitable's vaults, everything was found intact in these sub-vaults. The main vaults of the Equitable on the second floor, according to S.S. McCurdy, the Assistent Secretary of the company, are secured against all loss, but cannot be opened until the walls of the building have been razed.

The same is true of the vaults of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company on the ground floor which still hold several hundred million dollars in securities. These treasures may not be removed for another week.

The tenants of the Equitable Building have by this time fairly adjusted themselves to new quarters. The New York Telephone Company announced yesterday that it had supplied practically all of its subscribers in the destroyed building with new telephones.

Providing for Victims' Families.

Funds for the families of those who perished in the Equitable fire, particularly for Chief Walsh's family, have been subscribed freely and in most cases without solicitation. Aside from these relief funds, however, raised by theatre productions, benefits, and private subscription, and totaling already over $10,000, a movement has been started in Wall Street to raise a large fund to be used for the benefit of both firemen and policemen throughout the city.

The movement was begun by J.P. Morgan & Co. and Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and has the approval of both the Fire Commissioner and the Police Commissioner, as is required by law. Police Commissioner Waldo:

A movement has been started to collect a fund for the benefit of the families of those mebers of the Fire Department and others who lost their lives in the Equitable Building fire.

Further, several corporations, firms, and individuals, occupants of the Equitable Building and of offices facing the Equitable, who would have suffered great loss had not the spread of the fire been so effectively prevented, intend to make contributions directly to the relief funds of the Fire and Police Departments, and also for the benefit of the families of the men whose lives were lost. A committee is being formed to take charge of this movement.

It is now suggested that a general fund be raised by subscription from other banks and bankers in the financial district to be contributed to relief funds of the Fire and Police Departments as an expression of the appreciation of the efficient and heroic services rendered by the mebers of those departments under conditions of great danger and difficulty in the Equitable Building fire, and also as an expression by the financial district of the city of the confidenc that is fely in the ability of the Fire and Police Departments effectively to meet any emergency that may arise.

Commissioner Johnson, in replying, approved of the scheme.

The second fund referred to in the letter from the bankers is that now being raised by the occupants of buildings facing the ruined building. This fund in reality has a double purpose, a part of it to be devoted to the families of the dead and to those who were injured in the fire, and the rest to go to a relief fund for the benefit of members of the Fire and Police Departments. A committee has been appointed to dispose of this fund at its discretion. The committee is composed of benjamin Strong, Jr., Vice President of the Bankers' Trust Company; Alvin W.

Krech, President of the Equitable Trust Company; Albert H. Wiggin, President of the Chase National Bank; James G. Cannon, President of the Fourth National Bank; James S. Alexander, President of the National Bank of Commercel William A. Read. of William A. Read & Co., and Lewis L. Clarke, President of the American Exchnage National Bank.

Subscriptions will be received by the Equitable Trust Company, 115 Broadway, or through any member of the committee. The Equitable Life Assurance Society, it was said unofficially yesterday, would provide $20,000 for this fund.

Objection to the Plan.

Objection has been raised to the J.P. Morgan and Kuhn, Loeb & Co. fund by Joseph J. O'Reilly, editor of The Chief, the fire and police publication, and author of books on fire fighting, on the ground that this fund, even though it amounts to a million dollars, can never be expended as intended. Inasmuch as this fund is to go to the department relief fund, Mr. O'Reilly says, it will simply relieve the city and State from the legal obligation of maintaining these funds.

"If the bankers in Wall Street," said Mr. O'Reilly yesterday, "raised a fund amounting to a million dollars and turned it over to Commissioner Johnson for the Fire Department Pension Fund, that official would be powerless to give out of that fund a greater sum than $1,000 a year, as provided by law. That us what Chief Kenlon's family would get were the Chief to die. For battalion chiefs it is less, of course.

So far as the Police Department Pension Fund is concerned, the bankers' contribution might just as well be sent to Controller Prendergast to be deposited with the city's moneys. The way to get around the difficulty is to set aside a separate and distinct fund or foundation and not to contribute to the existing pension funds, which must be provided by law."


Fire Risk of the Locked-Ins.

Escape Should Be Provided for Bank Watchman, Says ex-Chief Croker.

Ex-Fire Chief Edward Croker, speaking yesterday of the lessons of the Equitable fire especially as regards the dangers encountered by watchmen and others locked in the big buildings at night, said:

"Men who accept jobs of that sort usually expect to face all the dangers that may come to them, the greatest of which is from fire. In buildings where the windows are without bars it is a simple matter to break a way to liberty. But in the big banks and safe deposit buildings, where the heavy steel bars create a veritable prison for those within, the danger is great. There certainly should be some plan by which the men might be as efficient in the discharge of their duties and also have a loophole of escape in case of a disaster like the big Equitable Building fire.

"The meory of the frozen, ice-covered pair of hands clinging spasmodically to the cruel steel bars will send a shiver of horror over all of the 'locked-ins' who have passed the Equitable ruins. I have preached the gospel of sending in prompt alarms for years, yet the public is slow to realize its truth. There is the desire always to try the family water pails and avoid the publicity of a street full of fire apparatus. How much more efficient work the department could do if called promptly to the scene, and how many more lives in a year would be saved instead of sacrificed. If a fire starts in a remore part of a big building perhaps the man at his post does not realize his danger until escape is cut off, even though he has a key to the outer world. Yet that key is a great comfort, for it is a chance, a run for your life.

"It has always been a matter of speculation to me just what induces men to enter dangerous occupations. Firemen, for instance, who are heroes in a big spectacular fire today, are perhaps only to die miserably in an unimportant cellar fire tomorrow. Still some one has to do the unpleasant duties in life, and it seems as if danger, like wealth, is not portioned off with special dispensations to us all. Protection from within the building in its advanced and perfected form seems to me to be the only hope of the 'locked-ins,' and they should look for such in a building before they accept the job,"

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