Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our Lady Of Angels Fire 50 Years Ago.

Chicago, IL—On December 1, 1958 I was a fifth grader at Hyde Park’s St. Thomas Apostle. One of my mother’s boyfriends was buying me a bicycle as an early Christmas present. The old black & white TV was on at the Ace Bicycle Shop on 55th Street. At the time we lived in an apartment on Hyde Park Blvd just East of Dorchester.

The gray haired shop owner was really upset. There had been an inferno at Our Lady Of Angles School. The police and firemen being interviewed were all crying and the pictures were graphic and awful. An army of first responders were all carrying dead children in their arms. Before it was over 92 children and three Catholic nuns were dead. Scores of other were injured.

I think I really learned that I was only a mortal that day. Even kids my age could die. Before then this notion was unthinkable. I think every kid in Chicago got extra hugs that day.

The horrible fire was not unnoticed at St. Thomas. The nuns began working with firemen holding fire drills and steps were taken so this would never happen at my school.

Fire and police officials investigated that fire for years after. Arson was suspected in the beginning and later all but ruled out as the cause.

I don’t think those Chicagoans alive back then would ever forget that terrible day. If there is a good side it’s that extraordinary steps were taken with building codes and such. Perhaps as a result all children are safer today.

I know Chicago still grieves over the day Chicago lost so many angels.

Here is another video...

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