Lusitania seen from Singer Building
Bain News Service
The photo is undated, but the smaller boats alongside match those in a view over Battery Park, a few blocks south, captioned September 13, 1907: Lusitania’s first arrival in New York.
The newest, biggest, soon to be fastest liner, seen from the not yet complete but soon to be (briefly) tallest building in the world, which remains the tallest peacefully demolished, and was the tallest demolished for any reason until the fall of the twin towers. Sixty-odd years after, they would have been rising in the foreground.
In her 2008 essay, "Two Paths for the Novel," Zadie Smith, commenting on the notion of a September 11 Novel, asks drily, “Were there calls, in 1915, for the Lusitania novel?”
a “meditation” on identities both personal and national, immigrant relations, terror, anxiety, the attack of futility on the human consciousness and the defense against same: meaning.
There weren’t, that I know of; nor any such novels. Nor any live action major motion pictures (Winsor McCay made a notable animated propaganda account in 1918). But the stories of the survivors’ lives have been collected, wonderfully thoroughly, by Jim Kalafus & Michael Poirier, and individually and collectively they make mesmerizing reading.
But the morning of her first arrival, the photographers were out for news, the simple excitement of a new, beautiful thing:
hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the bank of the River Hudson from Battery Park to pier 56. All New York’s police had been called out to control the crowd. 100 horse drawn cabs had been queuing from the start of the day ready to take away passengers.