[While delving into my “Women’s Writing” file* recently, found this horrifying, first-hand account written by Irene F. Ficarra, one of my writing students back in the 80’s. As I have been exploring how better to lift up forgotten women’s voices, I’ve decided to “publish” Irene’s recollection of January 15, 1919 this week.]

Trigger alert: Gruesome details.

“I was about 7 years old and the memory of it all is very vivid. My father worked for the Western Electric Company which was located in South Boston at the time. My mother worked as a “chocolate dipper” for a candy factory called Lowney’s which was situated where the Coast Guard Station was later located. We lived right off Commercial Street opposite the chocolate factory. My mother came home for lunch that day and heard the noise of the explosion; the screams of  the excited Italian neighborhood brought everyone to the street.

My mother announced that she should call my father’s place of work and tell him to come right home. When he got home everything was in total confusion and rush. Fire engines and ambulances kept a steady line to and from the molasses tank. I remember seeing one of the ambulances going by and the bodies were stacked on the floor of the vehicle. One of the heads was almost severed from the body and molasses and blood were mixed. It was an awful sight.

An extension of the MBTA then known as the Boston Elevated Railway passed along Commercial Street on its way to Rowes Wharf. Steel girders supported the tracks. The force of the escaping molasses caused these seemingly invincible uprights to bend.

The father of a friend of mine worked in the Boston Navy Yard. In spite of the fact that the Navy Yard and the molasses tank were separated by the Charles River, there were casualties at the Yard. He was one of the casualties.

It was a day that I will never forget.

*Where I found “Lowell Offering,” a collection of poems and essays written by “mill girls.” More to come from those forgotten voices!

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