Blaze the story of Giovanna Russo

Giovanna's home town
The boat used for immigrants coming to America

Seeing the Statue of Liberty in the distance, Giovanna Russo gasped in delight knowing that she and her family have finally arrived in America. Coming from a small village in Italy, the sixteen year old girl found her new home in the popular area known as Manhattan in the year of 1910. Her family (consisting of herself; her twin brother, Giovanni; and their parents) started to settle in a small, two bedroom apartment. After settling down, Giovanna found herself as a working teenager in a garment factory. This place was known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

Ellis Island

During the year before she started work, Giovanna took the time to learn more about the country she planned on living in. She met an old lady and her granddaughter at the bread store one day, selling newspapers with big headlines about the boosting economy in America. She took the time to stop and talk to the pair; curiosity always got the best of her. Giovanna learned of the publisher that wrote the newspaper she was currently staring at; Joseph Pulitzer. The young girl's mother worked alongside Pulitzer, as another skilled writer.

Giovanna also learned of the young girl's father, a man who worked to built the railroad system. She told Giovanna of how her father would come back home with sore arms, as the constant swinging of a heavy hammer against tough nails would normally do. The young girl pointed to the picture on the newspaper she was holding.

"This is how it looks. Amazing, isn't it? I can never imagine how someone could join all of our country together with the railroad system. I really want to travel on one too, with my dad." Giovanna nodded with her mouth hung open. Wow, just wow.

The older lady explained how this was all businessman, Cornelius Vanderbilt's, plan, after examining the awe on Giovanna's face.

"It makes everything easier. Traveling, transporting, anything you can think of. My son-in-law now works as a train operator. Oh, the places he goes and talks about. It's truly a remarkable invention. " The old lady explained. Giovanna glanced at a clock and realized she was running late. Her mother had demanded the bread to be back in an hour for dinner. She gave the two her thanks, hitched up her long skirt, and scurried along the road to get home in time. She smiled to herself; this country was remarkable and beyond her original expectations.

Another person Giovanna had the pleasure of knowing about, was Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was in charge of the steel industry and was known as the richest man alive. Her father and brother, Giovanni, currently worked for him, but they were not paid as much as they should.

One night in her and her brother's bedroom, she heard her mother arguing with her brother and father. "No, you two mustn't do this!" Her mother pleaded, "You will get hurt, and then what do you expect me to do?" Giovanni answered with a shaky voice, "Mother, we must do this for the good of our workers. We deserve more than what we are getting."

"Besides", her father began, "if all goes well, we will be earning this family more money and we can move to a bigger home." Giovanna heard her mother sigh before reluctantly agreeing. Hearing her brother's footsteps, Giovanna sat up straighter in her bed.

"Vanni," she started, "what was that about?" Her brother turned to her before explaining that him and their father were going on a strike with the rest of the steel workers at their job the next day because they weren't being treated fairly. One of Giovanni's own friends was fired earlier in the week for being a Chinese immigrant. This was the cause of the Chinese Exclusion Act. An act that Giovanna and the rest of her family hated. Giovanna smiled and agreed that they should fight for what is right.

That next day, Giovanna and her mother waited anxiously in their home for their other family members to return. When they finally did, there were many tears and hugs. The strike did not go well. Many people died and were hurt. Giovanni and his father agreed to no more striking because they did not like worrying their family.

Giovanna had the leisure of being taught all about these men who improved our business economy, but still need to met other men who made their time period pro-business. Two other influential people are John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. John D. Rockefeller was known for creating the oil business. Rockefeller wanted to get rid of all the other businesses. Rockefeller created monopolies so other business couldn't interfere with his business. Henry Ford was known for his ability to make cars. Henry Ford created an assembly line for the cars and each year something new was added on. Since many cars were being produced the population of people owned a car by 1917 because more than 4.5 million people owned them .

Giovanna met someone from Poland that was part of the Haymarket Riot. Her name was Roda. Roda's and her brother both worked at a clothing store. Her and her brother Fredek both were member of a secret union. They held secret meetings so no one would find out, but one day their boss found out and fired her and her brother from being part of a union. They both went and found themselves different jobs. Roda went and found herself another job at a different clothing store. Fredek now works for Rockefeller at Rockefeller and Standard Oil.

" What was it like working in a secret union?" Giovanna asked

" It was very hard because you had to keep it a secret and you couldn't make it obvious other wise your boss would know you are up to something" says Roda

"So then how did you keep it a secret?"

"I found myself writing in a diary because I couldn't tell anyone fear they would tell someone and I would be caught."

"I'm sorry that happened to you but I have to go other wise I will be late for work. It was nice meeting you Roda and thanks for telling me about the Haymarket Riot. Goodbye" Roda smiled and nodded, watching Giovanna run towards the factory. Her first day of work was about to start, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

After one week of grueling work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Giovanna was proud that she had earned a total of seven dollars. She walked through the doors of her work place and greeted all her beloved friends that she had the opportunity to make. As usual, Giovanna took her place at her crammed up work space. The first hour went by in a bored blur. However, the second hour brought nothing but chaos.

Crammed work space

Shrieks began to echo through the eighth floor where Giovanna worked. While plumes of smoke rose from a scrap bucket, the workers began to run around in fear of the rapidly spreading fire.

Where the fire started

Giovanna scrambled to the door as many other workers ran to do the same. Fists pounded on the locked door, screaming for help. Giovanna was pushed to the back by the panicked workers. She spotted people running towards the elevator and stairs that lead up to the ninth floor. An idea sparked in her mind; Maybe she could escape the chaos and fire by running up to the ninth floor. Giovanna stood on her wobbly feet before taking off towards the stairs. A hand gripped her sleeve, pulling her towards the windows.

The burnt staircase, where the workers got down

"Giovanna, where are you going?" Her closest friend, Vera, screamed over the loud cries from workers.

"To the ninth floor. Come with me!" Giovanna screamed back.

"No, there's no way that would work. Just jump out the window with me!" Giovanna stared at Vera, dumbfounded.

"Are you crazy?! There's no way we would survive the fall!"

"Would you rather burn to death?" Vera began to pull her even closer to the windows. Giovanna yanked her hand away and took a few steps back.

"I'm not giving up yet." With that, Giovanna took off towards the stairs. She took one glance back and witnessed Vera jump out from the window. Her stomach twisted as she forced her gaze back to the door of the ninth floor. Giovanna burst through the doors hopefully, knowing she would be safe.

However, her expectations were the opposite of reality.

Now the ninth floor was in flames as well. Fear overtook Giovanna; it seemed like there was no escape. She swallowed, taking a look around the floor. People were crowded by the elevator and the windows. Men were helping crying women up to the window ledge, jumping after them. With smoke stinging her eyes, Giovanna made her way to a window. She stood on the ledge with the help of another girl her age. Giovanna swallowed hard after seeing others plummet down to the ground. She silently thanked her family and all her friends before closing her eyes and stepping off the ledge. Wind ripped at her hair and dress, and that was the last thing Giovanna experienced as her body brutally hit the pavement below.

In 1991, ninety-six year old Giovanni Russo finished his story with a small choked sob, while his family looked on in absolute sadness. His family, consisting of two children from his deceased wife, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren were crowded around his hospital bed.

"Oh, grandpa!", Belle cried in dismay. The others in the room looked down in sadness for the aunt they never had the opportunity to meet.

"It's awful that those owners were found not guilty of killing all those innocent lives!" Charles, Giovanni's grandson, said infuriated on behalf of his deceased great-aunt.

"It's okay, children." Giovanni said with a soft, but sad, smile. "I am on my way to see my beloved sister and wife, again. It's time for all of you to let me go, now."

The descendants of Giovanni Russo nodded in sympathy and all took turns hugging and wishing him well.

The last thing Giovanni Russo saw as his heart gave out was the faces of those he loved, as he peacefully closed his eyes in hope that he would soon be seeing his twin sister again, for the first time in over eighty years.

Today, every building has proper etiquette in case of an emergency. Workers have fire drills and machinery to help in case of fire. Some examples of this machinery are fire extinguishers, to put out fires, and smoke alarms to warn people that there is a fire in the area. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was one of the major events that caused people to be more aware and to prepare for possible dangers that can happen in any building.

By: Anushka Jadhav, Alyssa Allen-Fields, and Shannon Bean

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