- Historic Sites
The Flames Of Hell Gate
Her life preservers weighted with scrap-iron, her lifeboats mere decoration, the excursion steamer General Slocum left New York’s Third Street pier at 9:30 on the morning of June 15,1904, with thirteen-hundred picknickers bound for a Long Island beach. Less than an hour later, she was afire.
October/November 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 6
The disaster slowly faded from the nation’s collective memory, and even the survivors, outliving bitterness and dwindling in number, eventually gave up their annual reunions at the Slocum plot. But in 1973 a fresh start was made, when a Slocum Memorial Committee was organized as a branch of the Queens Historical Society. Each year since, on the Sunday in June preceding the fifteenth the faithful have gathered again at the Lutheran Cemetery. There, while gray-robed choristers sing softly, the survivors present lower the flag to half-mast and set in place the traditional wreath. The occasion could be lugubrious; instead, it is serene, dignified, and inexpressibly touching. The younger observers watch not with pity but with respect, and something of awe, the few old people who were aboard the Slocum that bright and terrible day a lifetime ago.