Tuesday, June 15, 2004 at 10:30 AM at the World War I monument in Astoria Park on Shore Blvd
They Were Earth's Purest Children, Young And Fair - these words, inscribed on a small monument in Tompkins Square, is the epithet for the deadliest day in New York City's history prior to 09/11.
Proudly wearing their Sunday school best, hundreds of passengers boarded the GENERAL SLOCUM one sunny day on June 15, 1904. Named for a Civil War officer who had gone on to Congress, the ageing three-deck side paddler was one of the river's most familiar sights. St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, which served primarily German immigrants in lower Manhattan, chartered her for its 17th Annual Excursion to the Locust Grove Picnic Ground on Eatons Neck. In less than an hour, most aboard would be dead.
Over 1000 people, mostly women and their children would be trapped aboard when the steamer caught fire as it approached the Hell Gate in Astoria Park. Aflame from bow to stern, hundreds leaped from her and tried to swim the few dozen yards to shore. That evening, miles of the East River would be lined with the dead.
Although several events this week will mark the Centennial of the disaster, at only one will the Slocum be memorialized at the location and exact moment one hundred years after the event:
On Tuesday, June 15, 2004, at 10:30 AM at the World War I monument in Astoria Park, on Shore Blvd, a group of people will gather to pay homage to the great tragedy of 100 years ago. With the backdrop of a US Coast Guard color guard, District Manager George Delis of Community Board 1, the Greater Astoria Historical Society, the office of Queens Parks Commissioner Murphy, the General Slocum Memorial Association, and other civic leaders and historians will gather for a brief ceremony.
The US Coast Guard will send out a voluntary advisory at 10:30 AM for all boats in the
harbor to blast their whistles for one moment in memoriam.