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Commuters get first look at 'Hogg's Hollow' quilt

‘Important little piece of history’

Fifty years ago tomorrow, five immigrant men from Italy digging a tunnel 12 metres underground, near Yonge Street and York Mills Road, became trapped when their equipment caught fire. They died of asphyxiation before rescuers could reach them, in what became known as the “Hogg’s Hollow Tragedy.”

Tomorrow, commuters will get their first glimpse of the final moments of the men’s lives when family members and officials unveil artist Laurie Swim’s quilt Breaking Ground: The Hogg’s Hollow Disaster 1960 at York Mills subway station, near the site of the accident.

Ms. Swim began sewing the memorial after learning about the tragedy in 1998 and, with the assistance of a $10,000 grant from the City of Toronto and about 20 volunteer sewers, completed the project in 2000.

The quilt, pictured above, has been displayed at City Hall, the Macdonald Block government building east of Queen’s Park and the Columbus Centre on Lawrence Avenue West.

The Hogg’s Hollow tragedy “was a very important little piece of Canadian history,” Ms. Swim said. Grace Fusillo said the death of her uncle, Giovanni Fusillo, is still too emotional for her father, Carlo Fusillo, to talk about, and when she tried interviewing him for a documentary 10 years ago about the tragedy, he refused.

“It’s still a very emotional topic for my dad,” she said. “His brother was only 23 when he passed away. He had a newborn son who he had never met.”

Ms. Fusillo said she, along with other family members of those lost, will be present at tomorrow’s unveiling.

The two-by-six-metre quilt portrays two of the men in prayer. Two other men sit nearby. Giovanni Fusillo is looking at a wallet-sized photograph of his son, whom he never met.

“It’s actually a very haunting image, but it’s actually what happened,” Ms. Fusillo said. Rescuers found Giovanni’s wallet and photo with his body.

The others who perished were Pasquale Allegrezza, Giovanni Battista Carriglio, and brothers Alessandro and Guido Mantella. The deaths caused an uproar and prompted the government to write safety regulations .

Ms. Swim said she hopes that with the quilt in place, the importance of workplace safety won’t be forgotten.