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ICEWOMAN

Joe Zito, Italian American Hero

Annie Lanzillotto a.k.a. Rachele Coraggio (March 31, 2011)
Joe Zito, Elevator Man at The Triangle Factory, photo provided by his great granddaughter Jane Fazio Villeda
One Unsung Hero is now Sung Ballad for Joe Zito, by Annie Lanzillotto

I wondered what I could do, 100 years after the Triangle Fire.
I was telling my mother about heroic elevator operator Joe Zito,
and how he was an unsung hero. As soon as those words left my mouth,
I decided to "sing" him. Hence the Ballad For Joe Zito

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I wondered what I could do, 100 years after the Triangle Fire.
I was telling my mother about heroic elevator operator Joe Zito,
and how he was an unsung hero.  As soon as those words left my mouth, I decided to "sing" him.  Hence the Ballad For Joe Zito.
I thank his Great Granddaughter Jane Fazio-Villeda for talking with me and providing details of Joe's noble life and humble legacy.
And Diane Fortuna for setting me straight, on interpreting written history.

Song is the backbone to movements for social change. From Soweto to The Highlander Center in New Market, Tennessee,
it is the relentless rhythm, the powerful song-fuel that makes us shiver, that emboldens our spirit with courage to stand up and do something. Song paves the way and tells the stories.  Song unites our hearts' beat.




Ballad for Joe Zito

Music and Lyrics by Annie Rachele Lanzillotto © 2011

 

Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito,

The kinda man you wanna know.

Selfless Acts of Courage were his destiny.

Elevator Man, --Triangle Factory!               (x2)

 

Born the first of September, 1883, fifteen minutes past ten.

Giuseppe Alessandro Zito, sweet green eyes, he’d grow to be the noblest of men.

At 18 he left Sere, Provincia di Salerno, Italy,

Came to L’America.  Got a job at the Triangle Factory.

Joe ran one of two passenger elevator cars,

The other was run by a man named Gaspare Mortillalo.

But factory workers were treated as freight,

Backdoor elevators took their 500 bodies up to floors nine and eight.

 

Joe and Gaspare brought to the executive floor, bosses, foreladies, and buyers,

And In twin bowler hats, The Shirtwaist Kings: union busters, door lockers, and liars.

One Payday in March, a Saturday night, fifteen minutes to quittin’ time,

all Hell broke loose when Joe heard “Fire!”  Glass smashing, fists bashing, way up high.

Joe glanced over at Gaspare and they locked eyes,

And without a single word, pulled their cars up to the fast fast fire in the sky.

Up Up Up to save lives, all the workers were screaming, distraught.

Joe Zito never gave his own safety one single thought.

 

Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito,

The kinda man you wanna know.

Selfless Acts of Courage were his destiny.

Elevator Man, --Triangle Factory!              (x2)

 

 

Girls dove into Joe’s elevator car clutching scissors,

Another guy woulda minded his own biz’iness.

Italian American to the core,

Joe Zito never ran for the door.

Up Up Up Joe Joe Joe.  Into fire higher higher he climbed,

He went back up about eighteen times.

Why didn’t Joe go up a 19th you say?

Mezzomorte at the bottom of the shaft, our Joe lay.

Elevator dropped, smashed at basement level.

Cables gave in to fire, an overloading hell hole.

Jumping on Joe’s car, girls after girls after girls after girls.

Caving the roof, flesh on fire, hair in ribbons and curls.

They dragged Joe out onto Washington Place half dead,

Rushed him to Saint Vincent’s, stab wounds on his arms ‘n forehead.

What ever happened to Gaspare?

He was last seen running into the smoke filled l’aria.

 

Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito,

The kinda man you wanna know.

Selfless Acts of Courage were his destiny.

Elevator Man, --Triangle Factory!               (x2)

 

Povero Giuseppe Alessandro never recovered since he saw,

“Burning Rockets” from the 8th floor, fall.

He couldn’t forget girls trapped in flames, or

Judge Crain and his gavel saying, “Shirtwaist Kings are not to blame.”

Joe left New York City in a state of deprivation,

Shell shocked from Triangle workers’ asphyxiation ‘n decapitations.

Scarred for life, from all he saw,

Joe headed west, and seven years later, registered for the Army during The Great War.

 

 

 

 

No rich man could buy Joe’s word

His green sad eyes had saw and heard.  All

The papers said he died without a penny,

No bribe could change Joe’s testimony.  Ah!

The Shirtwaist Kings were offering thousand dollar bribes,

While the U.S. economy was taking a great dive.

Joe kept free to tell the truth.

Shirtwaist Kings got rich off insurance loot.

And like too many of our brave

Our noble Joe was buried in an unmarked grave.

 

Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito,

Italian American Hero.

Selfless Acts of Courage were his destiny.

He saved a-hun, a-hundred fifty.

 

Lemme tell you ‘bout Joe Zito,

The kinda man you wanna know.

Selfless Acts of Courage were his destiny.

Elevator Man, --Triangle Factory!  

 

Elevator Man!  We sing your name.

Thanks Joe!  Thanks Joe!  Thanks Joe!  Thanks Joe!

 

 

 

 (video at www.rememberthetrianglefire.org  Minute 24-34)