18 Minutes: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, 1911

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We went on strike. 
A  year ago, we asked for your help.We pleaded for better conditions.  In 1910, we begged for basic safety.  
You did not hear.  Why were you deaf? Did our youth blind your eyes? 
Did our gender plug your ears?
Did our ethnicity bind your hands? You would not move.  So we continued.  
We made our fingers dance for you. For 12 hours a day in the dark and cold.We took home the scrap of pay, Only $15 a week,And tried to feed our families.  
And still we hoped.   But then today.  Today, you heard us. 
You heard the urgent shuffle of delicate feet.  
You heard our shouts, then hush of resignation.You heard the roar of the fire growing,Crackling in the brisk March air.  
You heard dull thuds on the reluctant concrete As we ended our own suffering. Too late. Today, you saw us.  
You saw the flimsy fire escape twisting, collapsing, Crumbling with our hope of freedom.
You saw our faces in the windows, Braids aflame, framing frightened faces. You saw us fly from openings, Skirts billowing like balloons. You saw us on the ground, Tiny crumpled shirtwaists.  Too late.   Today, you felt us. 
You felt our pain.Our fear. Our numbness.And your guilt.  You sensed what you could not speak.Fire, like hatred consumesEverything in its path.  Fire did what you could not. 
It saw us all the same, as equals.Fire does not discriminate. Tomorrow, there will be change.From the ashes, reform will rise. You will remember us.You will look back and say, 
“This will not happen again”. The masses will cry out for justice.And it will come. We will be remembered.As women.As immigrants.  As children.And as Americans.As we were,And as we could have been. But it will not be over.We will still struggle.Our people. The human race.All that we ask is that you remember.That you don’t make the same mistake again.   All must be equal.No matter their gender.Their ethnicity. Their age.Their social status.  We must all have hope,And the right to workIn safe conditions. The right to life. And the pursuit of happiness.  You can not wait for another tragedy,To thrust you from the comfort of the everyday, To spur you into action to defend the minority. You must remember, and act. You must listen for the cries. You must be on the watch for injustice. You must be a defender.  Then, you will be a light,Illuminating the path to a new world.You will be a torch,Guiding the human race to change. So that not another innocent lifeWill have to make the sacrifice,To do it for you.   

 

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