Today marks the 98th anniversary of one of the most unique events in NYC Subway Tunnel history. On this day in 1905, a man was accidentally shot like a canon out of the present day 4/5 line subway tunnel under NY Harbor and into the air. He survived.
In a comically titled NY Times article on the event, “WORKER SHOT SKYWARD FROM UNDER RIVER BED“, the accident is described in great detail:
“Unparalleled in the records of submarine engineering accidents is he experience that yesterday befell Richard Creedon of 512 /1/2 Henderson Street, Jersey City, at the Joralemon Street end of the north tube of the East River Subway Tunnel. “. Creedon was investigating a pressure leak in the hydraulic shield when the accident occurred. A hydraulic shield is a very rudimentary device that was used in tunnel construction 100 years ago. it provided a ‘safe’ way for workers to dig under rivers, with pick axes and shovels. This intense, dirty manual labor has since been replaced by the much safer TBMs, or tunnel boring machines. Pressure leaks within the hydrological shield could lead to fatal ‘blowouts’ that would flood the tunnel with water. These blowouts were relatively common – 3 had already occurred at this same spot.
Pressure in the shield caused a blow out – which resulted in a 4 foot wide hole opening through 17 feet of silt, 10 feet below the river. According to the Times “Creedon was shot through the aperture and 10 feet of East River water like a pea through a putty blower“.
Creedon described what happened to the Times:
“ohh pohh! It didn’t amount to such a lot. There were four of us, and we were looking for a little trouble with the river bed. Jack Hughes yells for bags, and as the boys pass them up I grabs them and puts them at the hole when I was drawed into the flow and shot out at the other end. Then all of a sudden I strikes water and opens my eyes I was flying through the air, and before I comes down I had a fine view of the city”.
That is probably one of the most bad ass things I’ve ever heard someone say given the circumstances. Creedon sounds like he’d be a pisser to drink with: A real man who helped build the subway tunnels of NYC with his bare hands AND one who looked death in the face and laughed. Did I note that according to the Times article, he also threw a party when he got home, to celebrate the occasion?
A call to action.
I have to say, it would be a crying shame if, in 2 years time, there is no 100th anniversary of this most incredible and improbably of accidents. It should be done not just to celebrate the utter ridiculousness of the accident and Creedon’s ability to laugh it off, but to celebrate all the hard work of sandhogs over the last 100 years in helping to build the infrastructure of NYC. To memorialize all those who died in the process, and to, more than anything else, celebrate the hard work, talent and drive that built this country.
I propose 2 possible ways to celebrate:
1) At the least, there should be a placard placed somewhere along the shore line noting what came to pass. It could be similar to the one installed at Astoria park for the General Slocum site (though obviously less grim).
2) A bit more ambitiously, someone should try to re-enact this – with a mannequin or something of course (unless someone has the balls to be shot out of a canon from under the east river). Throw in some circus freaks, a marching band and a party of some sort.
Creedon’s name today has less recognition than many people in NYC history whom should be forgotten. Boss Tweed, The Collyer brothers, and Robert Moses are all names that anyone who knows even the slightest thing about NYC history will recognize. Richard Creedon? Nearly everyone has forgotten this man’s name and what his work symbolizes today. I just don’t think that’s right. If you don’t think so either, drop me an email, comment, etc – and let’s get something going to commemorate this true NYC legend.