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Twitter Trend: D.C. snowfall triggers memories of 1922 collapse of theater's roof, Washington Post
Saturday, February 6th 2010, 4:14 PM GMT
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It was in late January 1922, during an era in which rescue workers would give accident victims a shot of brandy, when the snow fell at a record pace and the roof of Washington's grandest theater, the Knickerbocker, collapsed

The roof, covered with 28 inches on Jan. 28, pressed down on a faulty truss. One edge of the truss slipped off the wall and fell onto the crowd of 300 Saturday night filmgoers below. Then the entire roof -- girders, beam, trusses, concrete -- collapsed like a sheet cake.

"After I fell quite a way the floor of the balcony seemed to open from under me and then I dropped through with nothing under me," survivor George Brodie wrote to his sister a few days later. "The screams around me woke me up. . . . I was practically buried under plaster and pieces of the chairs. Everything was pitch dark and as soon as I could I squirmed around and crawled out into a place that reminded me of a cave."

When the last corpse was pulled from the ruins at the southwest corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW, 98 people were dead and 133 were seriously injured.

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Now, 88 years later, with perhaps another record-breaking snowfall settling over the nation's capital, the Knickerbocker Blizzard remains both the area's greatest snowfall and one of the most deadly incidents in the city's history. For some, it retains a hold on the memory, a sepia-toned newsreel of What We Were Like Then. The National Weather Service's map of that morning, with the massive storm spreading from the Appalachian Mountains to New England, now resides in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rare-book room in Silver Spring.

"I think about it, because I know the history," says Jeff Krulik, the local filmmaker who made a documentary about local theaters called "Twenty-Five Cents Before Noon." He posted original footage of the disaster scene on his YouTube channel, the police in their long coats tramping through the debris, the men in fedoras, the Model T's clogging the street.

"Many long-term Washingtonians will have relatives or family who were connected to that disaster, people who knew people who decided not to go that night, or decided to go and tried to escape," Krulik said.

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