Feb. 27, 1907
A thick cloud of smoke from a raging fire in the basement swept through the Germain building on South Spring Street at lunch hour, engulfing businessmen and office workers. In a fraction of a second, the building’s occupants were transformed from powerful executives conducting elaborate stock deals into blind and struggling humans groping on their knees through the hallways to save their lives.
There were many daring rescues and examples of selfless sacrifice. One man was saved as he was about to commit suicide rather than die in the fire. Firefighters battled the blaze until they were at the point of collapse, left to revive themselves and then returned. The only fatality was Emma Stewart, a secretary who died because she turned back from her flight to telephone her employer about the fire.
Her last words were: “Mr. Germain, there is a fire in the basement. Come quickly.”
Reporter E.O. Sawyer dragged her to safety after finding her next to the telephone, the receiver hanging loose from its hook. Doctors spent an hour trying to revive her but she never regained consciousness.
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