Written by Bigdaddi
This story is a little different than the others I have written. Although it took place over 60 years ago it has never left me. Even today if I close my eyes I can still see parts of what happened. So here is the story.
In 1945 I was living in NYC in a district called Washington Heights. I lived in a 5 story walk up apartment on 186th St. and Audubon Ave. The next block towards the Harlem River was Amsterdam Ave. An old icehouse was located on 184th St. and Amsterdam Ave. One day somebody lit a fire in the icehouse evidently to keep warm. It was empty at the time and abandoned. Some of the structure caught fire and the fireman had to spray the walls and flooring with lots of water to put the fire out. Nobody thought of the cork insulation in the walls.
It is kind of cold at night so I slept in my pajamas under a nice quilt. Suddenly at about 6AM I was awakened by a tremendous commotion in my apartment and outside. I asked what happened and was told that the old icehouse had collapsed. I became wide awake and quickly getting dressed left my apartment and with my parents went to see just what happened. Now I wish I had never gone.
When one wall of the icehouse fell down it sheared a five story walk up in half. Just as you would cut a loaf or an orange in half so did that wall of that house. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that most families were sleeping (this happened at 3 AM) facing the street and that is what the wall fell on. When we got there we could see the whole street was filled with police, fire engines and ambulances. The firemen were taking out the bodies in bags while people were trying to console the survivors.
There was a bar on the corner of 184th St. That the owner opened his doors and was giving out free drinks to any fireman. Also in the back of the bar the Salvation Army set up some tables with coffee and doughnuts free to any police fire or ambulance worker. 4 hours and 6 phone calls later the Red Cross showed up.
The work went on all day and into the evening. During the day you could look into the apartments and see kitchens with refrigerators and sinks, empty cribs, toilets with some bathtubs hanging over nothing and everything that is in a home. It was very depressing to say the least and the memory of that awful night is still in my memory.
Now some stories of the survivors and victims, Since mostly Italians and
Irish lived in that house the names will be either Italian or Irish. The
Biancardi family had 8 children. 9 of that family died. The only survivor
was the little baby who was blown through an airshaft (by the force of
the falling wall) into the apartment of the Stianos whose son was in the
same class as I. All the Murphy family consisting of 5 children 1 of whom
I went to school with died, The man that sold ice-cream in the neighborhood
died. Some were spared but they probably lived with the horror of what
happened for the rest of their lives. This then is the story of that night
when the icehouse fell down.