Remember the General Slocum


Walk with me: left out of my building on East 89th Street, straight across East End Avenue and into Carl Schurz Park, up the stone stairs, past Gracie Mansion, and down the broad and curving pram steps to the benches that face the river. Sit down. It’s peaceful here, with the ruffled waters of Hell Gate spread before us, the big Siberian elm casting its shade over the path, a few gulls circling, maybe a cormorant diving near the seaweed-covered rocks below. The whoosh of traffic on the FDR Drive is muted, invisible underneath the park; across the water, cars flash along the span of the Triboro Bridge, too far away to hear. One hundred and six years ago today, just before 10 o’clock on a morning of glorious sunshine, the paddle-wheel steamboat General Slocum churned into view just in front of where we’re sitting. As long as a city block, her three tiers of open deck were dazzling in a fresh coat of white paint. A band was playing gaily on the topmost deck, and more than a thousand holidaymakers thronged the rails, all in their Sunday best, even though it was a Wednesday. For their much-anticipated annual Sunday School picnic, the parishioners of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on East Sixth Street had chartered a cruise from the Third Street pier to Locust Grove, out beyond Oyster Bay on Long Island Sound.

more from Janice P. Nimura at The Morning News here.