December 30, 1903 was an ordinary day, when lots of women and man took their children and decided to spend some time at the theater and watch a musical Mr. Bluebeard, Jr. starring Eddie Foy. The Iroquois Theater was a new place for people to relax and enjoy the plays of actors: people came, amazed, and came back to their homes.
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However, on December 30, 1903, lots of visitors of the Iroquois Theater did not come back home, as they were burnt alive: more than 550 lives were taken in 20 minutes. Some people got a chance to be saved from that fire, however, the vast majority of those people died at hospitals, on streets, and even in cars.
The Iroquois Theater Fire was a real tragedy for the citizens of Chicago, Illinois and now, is considered to be one of the deadliest fires, which happen in single buildings; in total, more than 600 people lost their lives; the city lost its property, and the society learned several rather serious lessons and realized that careless activities of some people may take lives of the others, and the guilt for the deaths cannot leave a person forever.
One of the most terrible shocks for the Americans during the investigation was the fact that the Iroquois Theater Fire took more lives than the Great Chicago Fire, however, the damage of the building was minor (Ramroth, 60). Because of fire-resistant walls and roof structure, repair of the theater did not take too much time, and in 1925, this building presented the same theater but only with another name, than, it was the Colonial Theater.
The number of lives, which were lost during the fire, is terrible: “575 or 30 percent were killed, 212 of them children, and 76 of whom were age 10 or under. Another 25 died later from burns and injuries” (Norbury, 12).
Also, it is necessary to mention that only one member of cast, Nellie Reed, was trapped by the fire and died. Looking at such numbers and imagining that these losses happened within 20 minutes in one building, it is impossible to believe that such things happened in real and no one could be blamed for this. Alive children were killed by the fire, their mothers watched how fire took them away, and lots of families were destroyed by ignorant attitude of the theater’s workers.
It turns out to be very difficult to comprehend what lesson society learnt from the Iroquois Theater Fire: several witnesses and workers of the theater were accused by the grand jury, however, none of them was convicted, and only 39 claimants got some financial support (Norbury, 13).
This lesson should be significant for the members of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). This organization is aimed at reducing fires and possible losses, cost by fires. In 1903, they made one terrible mistakes and did not find time to check the condition of the building and possible available exits, as a results, more than 500 people were in trap and did not have a chance to continue their lives after the performance.
Another lesson that had to be learnt from that fire was the necessity to strengthen all the regulations and check the availability of all possible exits. On the one hand, the Americans tried to learn on this mistake and cared about the exits in all American theaters. On the other hand, such care for exits was inherent to theaters only.
The managers did not find it important to take the same measures at nightclubs and some other public places. This is why the fires in other places for entertainments took place as well, it was the same hard to find out who is a guilty one and punish him/her according to law.
To my mind, if some people, who were responsible for the Iroquois Theater Fire, were punished harder but not just paid some money, the attention to fire protection in buildings and availability of exits could considerably increase. This is why lots of people learnt one more lesson from that fire – even human lives could be bought, and money could prevent possible punishment.
By means of the analysis why the theater was opened without proper check and protections, it is obvious that holidays and desire to buy more tickets and earn money served as the main factors to open this public place earlier than it should actually be.
Such selfish ends lead to one tragic and became a significant lesson for the United States of America. In Chicago, all theaters were closed and required all the necessary inspections in order to present safe performances. With time, other public places in America were closed or undertook serious repairs.
A number of laws, important regulations, and important codes, which had to regard fire safety, were taken; this very way, many Americans demonstrated that they can learn from their mistakes. However, I still wonder whether people really need some tragedies or catastrophes in order to start appreciating own life. So, any way, people should care about own future and the future of their own children and be able to create safe conditions anywhere.
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Norbury, Frank. A Matinee to Remember. 2009. Web.
Ramroth, William, G. Planning for Disaster: How Natural and Manmade Disasters Shape the Built Environment. New York: Kaplan Publishing, 2007.