Consul General attends ceremony marking the 108th anniversary of the “General Slocum” tragedy
Although being the biggest catastrophe in American civil shipping history, the "General Slocum" disaster in 1904 is widely unknown today. On June 15th of that year, the German St. Mark’s Lutheran Church of New York City’s Lower East Side had arranged a boat trip especially for the parish's women and children to spend a day on the East River. However, on the passage to Locust Grove, a well-liked picnic site, a fire broke out on the ship.
Although two saving shores were nearby, a lot of things went horribly wrong: the crew never had a fire drill, the fire hoses were rotten, the life preservers fell apart, the lifeboats were tied up, most people could not swim and for those who could their women's heavy clothing made swimming impossible.
Of the 1,400 people aboard at least 1,021 died, most of them women and children of German descent. Unable to live with the memory of the disaster and the great loss of life and beloved family members, the surviving community members left the Lower East Side, bringing to an end what was known as “Little Germany.”
A monument on All Faiths Cemetery in Queens where many of the victims were buried reminds of the catastrophe. Each year in June, the “All Faiths Restoration & Beautification Program Inc.” arranges a commemmoration ceremony to keep the memory alive. In recent years, also the victims of 9/11 are honored and remembered on this occasion.
Last Saturday, the President of the All Faiths Cemetery, Daniel C. Austin and his son, Daniel C. Austin Jr., President of the “All Faiths Restoration & Beautification Program Inc.,” welcomed a group of guests, including Consul General Busso von Alvensleben, former New York State senators, relatives of survivors and community representatives.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard stressed that after the “General Slocum” disaster many security regulations were introduced which are still in effect today and which have helped prevent similar calamities.
Consul General von Alvensleben expressed his appreciation for the commitment and initiative of the All Faiths Program and underlined that a sense of history and respect for those who lost their lives in these events honours both, the victims and those who uphold their memory.