The New York Times (New York,New York) September 20,1902
SEVEfJTY-EIEHT SEVEfJTY-EIEHT SEVEfJTY-EIEHT OEGEOES killed in A WAD PAniC Shout of VFIght" Mistaken for an Alarm of "Fire! " Tragic Close of . National Con vention of Negro Baptists at Birmingham, AUl Booker. Washington Present C ' But Unhurt. BIRMINGHAM, Ala.. Sept 19. Ia aa awful crush of humanity caused by a stampede In tha . Shlloh Negro Baptist Church, at the corner of Avenue O and Eighteenth Street; "to-night "to-night "to-night seventy-eight seventy-eight seventy-eight persona were killed and aa many mora se riously Injured. ' ' The disaster occurred at 9 o'clock.. Just as Booker T. Washington had concluded his address to the National . Convention " of Negro Baptists, and for three hours tha scenes s round the church were almost In describable. Dead bodies were strewn In every direction, .and the ambulance service of the city waa utterly unable to move them until long after midnight While the injured were being attended to d ox ens of dead bodies were arranged In rows on the ground outside the building awaiting removal to tha various undertaking establishments, and 'more than a score, were- were- laid out on the benches ln-dde. ln-dde. ln-dde. . .-" .-" .-" .'"'. Shlloh Church Is the largest place of wor ship for negroes in Birmingham, and at least 2.000 persona were Inside when 'the stampede began- began- Instructions bad been Is sued to allow no one to enter after the building had been filled, bat the negroes forced their way Inside end were standing In every aiIe when the cry of "Fight I -" -" Fight! - was mistaken for Fire," and a deadly scramble began to get out The entrance to the church waa literally packed, and tha negroes were trampled, to death la their struggle to escape. - As Booker T. " Washington concluded hla address Judge Blllou. a negro lawyer from Baltimore, engaged In a dispute with tha choir leader , concerning -. -. an unoccupied aeat . Some one In. the choir cried. "A fight 1 " . Mistaking tha word fight " for " fire, the congregation rose an ma sea and started tor the door. . . One of. the ministers - quickly mounted tha rostrum and urged the people to keep quiet He repeated the word M quiet . sev eral times, and motioned to hla hearers to be seated. . The excited congregation mis took the word quiet " for a second alarm of fire and agaU rushed for the door.. Men and womett ' crawled over benches and fought their way lata the alslee; and those who had fallen were trampled tpon like cattle. - The screams of the - women and children added to the horror of the scene. Through mere fright many persona fainted ana as -.ney -.ney leu tr me iioor were crusnea to death. The level of the floor cf the church la about fifteen feet from the ground, and long steps lead, to the sidewalk from tha ioodv. just outside tne main auditorium. Brick walls extend on each side of these steps for six or seven feet, and this proved a veritable death trap. Negroes who had reached the top of the steps were pushed violently 'forward end many' fell. . Before iney could move otners reu upon tnem. and tn a few moments persons were piled upon each other to a height of ten feet where they struggled vainly to extricate themselves. themselves. Thla wall of struggling humanity blocked the entrance, and the weight of LBOu persons persons in the body of the church was pushed against iti . More than twenty persons lying on the steps underneath the heap of bodies died from suffocation. Two white men who were tn the rear of the church when the rush began escaped, and realising the seriousness of the situation situation rushed to a corner nearby and turned In a fire alarm. The Fire Department answered answered quickly- quickly- and the arrival of the Wagons Wagons served to- to- scatter the crowd which had gathered around the front of the church. A squad of police was also hastened hastened to the church, and with the firemen finally succeeded .in releasing the negroes from their pinioned positions In the entrance. entrance. The dead bodies were quickly removed and the crpwd Inside finding an outlet poured out. . Scores of them lost their footing In their haste and rolled down the long steps to the pavement suffering broken limbs and Internal Injuries. In an hour the church had been practically practically cleared. The sight which greeted those who had come to aid the injured waa sickening. Down the aisles and along the outside of the pewa the dead bodies of men and women were strewn, and the crippled uttered heartrending cries. The .work of removing the bodies was begun atones. atones. ' Shlloh Church. In which the convention was held, is located Just on the edge of the South Highlands, the fashionable residence residence section of this city, and all the physicians physicians living In that part of the town went to the aid of the Injured. At least fifteen of those brought out Injured died before they cquld be moved from the ground. Most of the dead are women, and . the physicians say in many cases they fainted and died fmnt suffocation. A remarkable feature of the calamity la that little or no blood was seen on any of the victims. They were either crushed or were suffocated to death.