New York, NY Park Place Building Explosion - looking for relatives
Some of the inquiries for missing people were peculiarly interesting. Among the seekers after lost relatives was a Mrs. Shattuck of 27 Moore Street, Brooklyn, who was seeking her eighteen year old son, Edward H. Shattuck. The poor mother was beside herself with grief and fear. At each of the bodies recovered from the ruins she gazed long and earnestly when the coverings were removed by the police, and at every new disappointment her sobs and lamentations broke out afresh.
"I cannot tell by whom he was employed." Mrs. Shattuck said. "It was only yesterday that obtained employment, after being out of work a long, long time. All I know is that it was here in Park Place at 68, and to think that this thing should have happened, and that he is lost to me in this way! It is too hard. I cannot bear it."
Not everybody who sought relatives or whose duties compelled their attendance at the scene of the fire was treated with the consolation which was for some occult reason shown this mother in quest of her missing son. As a rule, the duty of handling the crowds was simply outrageous. The mother of little Johnny Gibbs, for instance, was hustled about by two brawny policemen as if she had been a Fourth Ward "tough."
The case of C. L. Middleton of 412 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, who was in search of some information about his son, Albert E. Middleton, a seventeen year old boy who was employed by Liebler & Maass as a press feeder, was a particularly sad one. He went to the Church Street Station, and the Sergeant in charge told him that he heard nothing from his son. The old man was almost beside himself with grief. He told the Sergeant that the boy's mother was prostrated at home by the awful news.
"I am prepared to hear the worst myself." he said sobbingly. "My boy's brother was burned to death, and only a few weeks ago another of my children died very suddenly. This boy was the last of our children."
The suffering father then started out anew on his weary search for some news of his son.
Mrs. Walter, mother of Otto Walter, who is among the missing, was one of those who were in a state of great grief when she called at the hospital. He boy was her only support, she said. If he were gone, there would be nothing left to her.
Quickly, then, the firemen came upon the body of a man of thirty-eight years or thereabout, a mechanic, evidently an intelligent man, bald, and with a heavy brown mustache. His skull had been crushed in. Then old Patrick Slattery, about fifty-eight years old, an employe[sic] of the Empire City Subway Company, who was eating his noonday meal on the curbstone and whose skull was broken and face smashed in, was tenderly carried out and laid by the side of the bodies of the little girl and the mechanic.
At 2:50 the firemen, working where the little girl was found, saw the protruding hand of another little girl, a touch of which revealed the face that she was still alive. Tenderly and carefully they lifted away an arch of timbers that providentially protected her, and soon little Mamie Heagney, soiled, and scarred on her forehead, but alive and full of courage, was safe in the arms of a sturdy fireman.
Her first thoughts were for her little sister. "My little sister is down there." she said, and pointed to the hole from which she had emerged.
An ambulance surgeon seized her from the arms of the fireman, gave her a nasty glance, and tossed her like a bundle of rags into an ambulance, and she was taken to the Chambers Street Hospital.
A few minutes later the body of a little boy, Johnnie Gibbs, was taken from under the pile of masonry near where the Heagney children, with whom he had been playing, were found. His frantic mother saw the little form at a distance and calling frantically "Oh, my Johnnie! Oh, my Johnnie!" struggled with the policemen to get to him. Poor little fellow; he had suffered little. His skull was crushed as if it had been an eggshell.
Presently the burned stump of a protruding hand was seen sticking out of the doorway of the same building, and the sixth victim of the disaster, a boy of seventeen or eighteen, was taken out. He remained among the unidentified, and, with all the others, save the little Gibbs boy, was taken to the Morgue.
The New York Times, New York, NY 23 Aug 1891