Helping Others versus Every Man for Himself

Helping Others versus Every Man for Himself Disasters American History Famous Historical Events Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs

As the Hartford Circus fire raged out of control, some people helped others - to the point of returning inside the tent as long as possible - while others only took care of themselves:

The same thing was happening all over the tent.  Someone bowled an elderly man over from behind and he landed in a tangle of seats.  He got up only to be knocked down again.

The younger and stronger pushed the older and weaker over chairs, knocked them down and stepped on them.  As one witness politically admitted:  "It is fair to say that many people were trampled by those who had the brawn to carry it off."

One little girl known as "Little Miss 1565" - because she remained unidentified - was one of the people trampled to death. 

Beyond those who merely cared about themselves, others tried to assist the best they could:

Yet some did look out for others.  A young mother from Hartford hit the railing of Section C with her two-year-old and couldn't break loose.  A thin, thirtyish man in shirtsleeves reached over from the track and lifted both of them out so they could escape.  He seemed calm, and his calmness heartened her.  As she ran off, he stayed there to help those remaining.
Some people tried to catch others jumping.  One terrified woman leapt from the top; her body caught a man across the head and shoulders, toppling him, almost knocking him unconscious.  "If she had been a bigger woman - she weighed only about one twenty-five - I'd have lain right there and probably have been burned to death."  (Quoted passages from The Circus Fire:  A True Story of an American Tragedy, by Steward O'Nan, pages 78-80.)

By the time the fire was extinguished, the tent had essentially evaporated.  After the bodies were cared for - and they were removed within two hours - all that was left was the rubble.

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Image of Hartford circus fire, online courtesy U.S. National Archives.


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"Helping Others versus Every Man for Himself" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jan 28, 2020.
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