Illinois recognizes 100th anniversary of state’s deadliest disaster

CHICAGO — Today is the 100th anniversary of the deadliest disaster in Illinois history.
 
A wreath lays at the Chicago River site where 844 people died aboard the SS Eastland on July 24, 1915.  John Gregory/Illinois Radio Network
A wreath lays at the Chicago River site where 844 people died aboard the SS Eastland on July 24, 1915. John Gregory/Illinois Radio Network

At the very site along the Chicago River where the SS Eastland rolled over while tied to the dock, killing 844 people, the anniversary was marked with flowers being laid in the water, and retellings of survivors’ stories of survivors of the disaster.

 
Ted Wachholz, executive director of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society, repeated words spoken by one survivor, J.V. Brown, who happened to be on the port side of the ship when it began rolling over.  
 
“No man is a hero underwater,” Wachholz said, “and while it may be true that no man is a hero underwater, there were a million heroes above water that day.”
 
The commemoration of the 100th anniversary will continue throughout the weekend with events like a river cruise, which will depart from the same spot where the disaster occurred, and the lighting of 844 candles, one for each person killed in the disaster.