Hoboken NJ – In the late 1970’s into the early 1980’s, hundreds of arson fires occurred across the Mile Square City. 55 Hoboken residents perished in the fires, thousands more made homeless.
Many of these fires began in the early hours before dawn while building residents slept. The vast majority of the victims were Hispanic women and children. In one arson incident alone, on January 2nd, 1979, 21 people died at 131 Clinton St.
Those responsible for the the fires were never convicted. Sadly, numerous fire victims were not named in news accounts at the time. There has been no official recognition or remembrance in the Mile Square City for the horrific loss of life and the anguish Hoboken residents suffered. In their place, new residents moved into refurbished condos having no idea what occurred at an old tenement building before their arrival.
A group of residents have formed to launch the Hoboken Fire Victims Memorial Project, founded in 2018 by Rose Orozco. Rose is a retired nurse who lived and worked in Hoboken through the tumultuous years of the fires.
“On any given night, a fire could erupt engulfing the entire building in flames, killing those who were sleeping. Those Hoboken residents who perished and the thousands affected should be remembered.”
The Hoboken Fire Victims Memorial Project will work to identify the names of the victims of the fires and start efforts toward creating a memorial in Hoboken. Family members who lost a loved one are invited to express their thoughts on the Hoboken Fire Victims Memorial Project Facebook page and share the names of friends and family lost.
The Hoboken Fire Victims Memorial Project committee:
Rose Orozco is the 2018 Founder of the Hoboken Fire Victims Memorial Project. She was a nurse at the former St. Mary’s Hospital and witness to the tragic consequences of the Hoboken fires.
Councilwoman Jen Giattino is the current Hoboken City Council President. She will initiate efforts at City Hall to identify the best location and begin the process for a memorial. “I’m very pleased to support the efforts Rose undertook to honor the victims of the Hoboken fires. I’m sure we’ll see strong support in our Hoboken government,” she predicted.
Tommy Molta, Hoboken Fire Captain (ret.) was an active firefighter and witness to some of the dark days during the Hoboken fires. Currently, he is the President of the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Elaine Ellis Thomas is the Rector of All Saints Episcopal Parish and is planning to organize community conversations, prayer walks and a memorial service. “All Saints played an important role in helping those displaced by the fires, and I am interested in discovering how the church might help in healing some of the most painful memories of those who lived through this traumatic time in Hoboken’s history,” she said.
Holly Metz is the editor of the Hoboken Oral History Project, a project of the Hoboken Historical Museum and the Friends of the Hoboken Public Library. Those efforts have allowed her to hear the stories of many Hobokenites, including Rose. For Holly, this memorial project is part of that listening and documentation of our lives here.
Roman Brice is the editor of The Hudson Mile Square View and has covered Hoboken government, politics and corruption over the past decade.
Hoboken Fire Victims Memorial Project