Cover of historian Edward O'Donnell's book, Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum.
On the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the northern end of Tompkins Square Park is a small stone memorial to what was -- until Sept. 11, 2001 -- the worst disaster in New York City's history.
A century ago today, a steamship called the General Slocum left the piers at East 3rd Street. The boat was filled with more than 1,300 residents of the Lower East Side, many of them recent immigrants. Their destination was a church picnic on Long Island. But as the steamship made its way up the East River, it caught fire and sank. More than 1,000 people on the boat, many of them women and children, died in the disaster. Slocum survivor Adella Wotherspoon recounted the story before her death earlier this year, at the age of 100.
Produced by Joe Richman and Teal Krech of Radio Diaries.