As I am painting the concrete life jackets with historical notations reflective of the 13-year inspection lapsed, failed personal flotation devices (1st image); I am all the more in touch with the human loss caused by the disaster (2nd-3rd images). As I swim laps at the Y, I imagine the struggle against drowning in the Hellgate eddies– without swimming skills and in heavy Victorian clothes and shoes.
I empathize with the horror of the first responders, acting primarily as reapers, as well as the despairing health conditions of the East River morgues; and the deep pain of silence in the scarred LES community years after the tragedy. We contemporary New Yorkers also continue to grieve 9/11.
As referenced by David Remnick in the New Yorker last fall, the General Slocum Steamship disaster was the largest single event loss of life in the New York area until the World Trade Center attack, and the subsequent Justice Department accident investigation led to the safety regulation of flotation devices on commercial vessels.
The symbolic concrete jackets currently await branding with the word "Vessels" (4th-8th images).
The Metal Arcs of the sinking paddle wheel primary structure are also complete (9th image), an irony in itself of twisted steel collapsed.