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Thread: Our Lady of the Angels school fire

  1. #1
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    Our Lady of the Angels school fire

    Shortly before school was dismissed on December 1, 1958, the Our Lady of the Angels parochial school in Chicago, a fire broke out in the basement of the school.
    Originally, the building was a church and had wings added on until it was 'U' shaped two story building, two wings joined by a hallway. Over the years, the school 'grandfathered' out of getting sprinklers installed in the building. It passed inspection in October of 1958, although there was only one fire door on the first floor, the only fire extinguisher was seven feet off the ground and classrooms were overcrowded.
    Built like schools of that era, OLA had highly waxed floors, wooden stairs,varnished woodwork, wooden lathe-type walls covered in plaster, high windowpanes that were above radiators and layers of paint on the walls. There were numerous layers of tarpaper on the building's roof. The school was thought to be safe since it was a brick building.
    Only one janitor was hired to care for the school, church and other church property. He worked hard and strived to keep the school as clean as possible. At the end of the day, students would bring down trashcans full of wastepaper to be dumped in a large cardboard-type container.
    Students in the school recalled a known firebug fellow student who went downstairs with another boy to dispose of the trash. He allegedly disappeared in the basement and the other boy went to tell his teacher that his partner didn't want to come back upstairs.
    Allegedly, the highly troubled 10-year-old had a book of matches he'd stolen from his stepfather. He used three matches to start a fire in the large container, which was located under one set of stairs. He calmly walked back to the classroom
    When a window broke due to the heat, the fire got a headstart. It didn't spread to the first floor due to the fire doors. The staircase was then transformed into a huge flue. Heat rose to the cockloft above the acoustic ceiling tiles in the classroom.
    By the time teachers and students realized that the building was on fire, it was too late. Fire companies responded, but precious time was lost when firefighters had to knock down a six-foot-tall iron gate to gain access to the second floor.
    The out-of-control blaze forced teachers and students to remain in their classrooms. Some did escape, with the help of teaching nuns either helping them get out of the window, rolling the students down the stairs, through the toxic, thick, black smoke or panic-stricken kids simply plunged 25 feet to pavement.
    Many children died of asphyxiation. In total, 92 children and three teaching nuns were killed. Firefighters were horrified when rooms filled with children flashed over before their eyes, killing everyone in the rooms instantly. Twenty eight pupils and their teacher were found in another classroom, all victims of asphyxiation.
    Eventually, the troubled student was interviewed by law enforcement officers and an expert who dealt with children. The boy confessed, then recanted his testimony. The case was thrown out of court by a judge who didn't want to implicate the Church or put the boy's life at risk from parents who might seek revenge. To this day, the case is officially unsolved.
    Instead, the hardworking janitor was made a scapegoat and his life was ruined. Families moved out of the pleasant ethnic neighborhood (Italian, Irish, Polish, German families). By the time the boy was 13, he was suspected of killing five people in a bowling alley fire. He went to a juvenille detention center until he was an adult.
    More facts about this hideous tragedy, period news articles and pictures are available at www.olafire.com.

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    I was born and raised in Chicago(and attended 8 years of Catholic grade school)and heard many stories about this fire. One of my teachers was close friends with one of the nuns killed in the fire. The teacher often talked about that day and how it affected her.

    Thanks for the link, very interesting.

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    Incredible.

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    Had never heard of this one.....awful tragedy


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    I read about this somewhere...that incident was the precursor to a lot of other school massacres....

    Wasn't there another school fire or bombing around this time or before it? I think it was a janitor that blew the school up...I can't think of where it was though...
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    Quote Originally Posted by KristinEileen View Post
    I read about this somewhere...that incident was the precursor to a lot of other school massacres....

    Wasn't there another school fire or bombing around this time or before it? I think it was a janitor that blew the school up...I can't think of where it was though...
    The Bath School bombing in 1927, so 30 years earlier. 45 died, 58 were injured.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster

    The bomb was set by a local farmer and all-around asshole and creep, Andrew Kehoe, who also murdered his wife. He was angry at the increase in taxes required to build a new school.

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    CarryingJohnJajkowskitn.jpg

    NorthWingHalltn.jpg

    OLA_006tn.jpg

    pic4tn.jpg


    The first picture became famous as a fire prevention poster. John Jajkowski's lifeless body is being carried out of the ruins of the school.
    After the fire was extinguished, this is all that remained of the second floor of the main building. The next photo shows firemen battling the blaze at the height of the fire. An asphyxiated girl is carried out of Room 212.

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    If anyone is interested there is a fantastic book about this. It is call "To Sleep with the Angels." Very good.


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    December 1, 1958-December 1, 2008

    Attachment 10263

    Attachment 10264

    Attachment 10265

    Attachment 10266

    Attachment 10267Monday is the 50th anniversary of this horrible disaster. I found these pics in the Life Magazine archives.
    Fire inspectors look at the area where the fire started, under the staircase on one side of the school. The next view of the school is of the courtyard where an iron gate had to be broken down before firefighters could reach children who were trapped on the upper floor of the left side of the building.
    A badly burned little girl attends class in the newly constructed school in 1960.
    Last edited by Alanwench; 11-29-2008 at 01:04 AM.

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    The gate that had to be broken down was in fact across the front of the "U" shaped courtyard, where children were already starting to jump from second-floor windows.

    There were only a limited number of fire alarm switches in the building, and none in the basement. Had there been one in the basement, the janitor would have been able to sound the alarm earlier.

    The greatest loss of life was in the two upstairs classrooms nearest to the main stairs. Children could have escaped by crawling or scooting on their stomachs the relatively short distance to the stairs, but the thick, acrid smoke in the corridors apparently made them seem impassable.

    Every official involved in the investigation of the tragedy from the lowest-ranking fireman and police officer up to the the Fire Chief and Mayor of Chidago was Catholic. Is it any wonder that some detailed information about the disaster has only come to light in the last few years?

    A few inexpensive modifications would have prevented or drastically reduced the severity of this tragedy. It's probably the worst example of child abuse by the Catholic Church.
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    Good gawd...

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Miho View Post
    If anyone is interested there is a fantastic book about this. It is call "To Sleep with the Angels." Very good.
    I second that; excellent book. Also, one of the survivors, a woman named Michele McBride, wrote a book called "The Fire that Will Not Die." She was badly burned in the fire. Don't even know if it's still in print, but you might be able to snag a copy on eBay or through Amazon's used books. She died in 2001.

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...&GRid=11204768
    http://www.findadeath.com/forum/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=3548&dateline=1221319172
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    I read " To Sleep With the Angels" I cried all through the book. It was sad and disturbing but fascinating too.

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    Here is link to all the children and others killed.....a dear friend of mine has made it one of her vitual cemeteries......I leave flowers for all every anniversary


    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...r&GSvcid=14833

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    Scars Remain After 50 Years

    Webmail | Top News | World

    50 years after school inferno, scars remain
    11/29/2008 12:32:00 PM

    Associated Press/AP Online
    By F.N. D'ALESSIO
    CHICAGO - Seven-year-old Dan Taglia heard the fire alarm bell from his classroom on Dec. 1, 1958, but hoped it was a signal that students were getting ice cream. It was too late in the day for a fire drill, and anyway the nuns wouldn't send the children out coatless on such a cold day.
    "But what does a third-grader know?" recalled Taglia, now of Katy, Texas.
    On the first floor at Our Lady of the Angels School, where Mary Ellen Hobik was taking an English test, the nun in charge of her fourth-grade class dismissed the alarm as a mistake.
    "I was glad, because I knew I was doing well on the test," said the current Mary Ellen Reeves, now an elementary school principal in Addison, Ill.
    But the alarm was real, and fire and toxic smoke engulfed the elementary and middle school on Chicago's West Side with terrifying swiftness.
    Three nuns and 92 students died. Some burned to death. Others died of smoke inhalation or were trampled. Still others died when they jumped or were pushed or thrown from windows.
    The disaster threw the city into mourning and brought messages of condolence from around the world, including from Pope John XXIII and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
    It brought about an almost immediate reform of school building and safety codes in Chicago and around the nation.
    And it left deep physical and emotional scars that remain 50 years later.
    ---
    By the time the alarm rang, heat already was shattering the glass transoms over classroom doors, letting in a deadly mixture of smoke and gas. The fire had invaded the attic space above the second-floor rooms, dropping burning ceiling tiles onto the students below.
    Smoke and superheated air made the second-floor hallways impassable and for many the only escape was through the windows - 25 feet above the paved school yard. Horrified neighbors came running with ladders, but they were too short.
    In Room 209, 13-year-old Gerry Andreoli followed the orders of Sister Mary Davidis Devine to stuff textbooks into the cracks around the door, but the air soon became unbreathable. Andreoli climbed to a windowsill and jumped to the top rung of a ladder two feet below. The skin had burned off his hands, so he skidded down the ladder on his back, catching the rungs with his heels.
    "I don't know now how I did it," said Andreoli, now a chiropractor in Bloomingdale, Ill.
    Across the hall in Room 210, Irene Mordarski couldn't reach the ladder. An explosive blast of air knocked her off the windowsill, and the 13-year-old fell to the pavement, shattering her pelvis.
    Someone ran to a shop across the street to phone the Fire Department, but they mistakenly gave the wrong address.
    Once fire fighters arrived with hoses and longer ladders, they had to reach as far as they could into the burning classrooms, grab children and toss them down - hoping someone below would catch them.
    Kathleen Guisinger, of Mountain Home, Ark., says she is still haunted by what she saw that afternoon. She and her sister and brother escaped safely, but two of their cousins died.
    "Just think of it," said Guisinger, now 60. "You send your healthy child off to school and you never see them again. I can't comprehend that, and yet I saw it happen."
    ---
    In retrospect, conditions at the school appear to have been a disaster waiting to happen.
    It was in the midst of the Baby Boom, when classroom overcrowding was the national norm, school construction was largely unregulated and safety features were primitive, at best.
    The students at Our Lady of the Angels were returning from their Thanksgiving break that Monday morning. Some were absent because of colds and flu, but more than 1,400 filed into the main building. Another 200 went to an annex for the youngest pupils.
    OLA, as it was called by the students, had been built in stages beginning in 1904. By 1958, there were two large, two-story wings connected by the annex.
    The exterior was brick, but floors were highly varnished wood and narrow wooden stairs were covered with asphalt tile.
    "Varnished wood with years worth of wax residue, wooden stairs with flammable tiles ... they may just as well have built it out of tinder and kindling wood," said one survivor, Lt. Michael Mason of the Downers Grove Fire Department, who was a 6-year-old first-grader at the time of the fire.
    The construction would be unthinkable today but was completely legal under grandfather clauses in Chicago's school building code of the time.
    Investigators determined that the fire started in a trash barrel in the basement. It smoldered for a half-hour or more until the heat shattered a nearby window, letting in fresh air.
    Flames quickly spread to a stairway. The first-floor door kept it away from the classrooms there, but the fire spread unchecked into the second floor and the attic.
    There was just one steel fire escape - and it was locked. The fire alarm was not connected to the Chicago Fire Department's system, and its switches were six feet off the floor - too high for most students to reach.
    Later, investigators said there were signs the fire had been set, either accidentally or deliberately. Three years later, police in suburban Cicero arrested a 13-year-old for a series of arson fires and discovered that he was a former OLA student. Under intense questioning, he admitted setting the school fire, but later recanted. He was never charged, and has since died.
    In the year after the fire, 16,500 older school buildings across the nation underwent various forms of fireproofing, and the National Fire Protection Association estimates that 68 percent of U.S. communities followed Chicago's lead in adopting new school fire codes.
    ---
    Andreoli, who required 14 skin grafts, wasn't released from St. Anne's Hospital until March 1959. That's when he learned his girlfriend, Beverly Burda, had died.
    "Those days were like the Dark Ages - they tried to keep you in the dark," he said. "Nobody told you anything about the fire or what happened. And because my face was burned they wouldn't even let me have a mirror."
    At St. Anne's, he met Irene Mordarski. She spent 7 1/2 months in St. Anne's and had undergone the first of a number of hip replacements. They eventually dated - awkwardly at first, because fear forced them to sit only by doors and exits at restaurants and theaters. They married in 1967 at Our Lady of the Angels Church.
    Some survivors complain about the policy of silence, and about the simplistic tone church officials took in consoling the families of the dead children.
    Several remember a priest at a Christmas service saying: "Baby Jesus really wanted to have a great birthday party, so he gathered those special children around him."
    "Saying that God took the good and innocent children is a wonderful way to make those who were grieving feel OK," said Taglia. "But it makes the kids who survived think `What am I, (expletive)?'"
    Taglia's two sisters also attended the school, and when his mother heard the mounting death toll on her car radio while returning home from work, she assumed at least one of her children had died. "We were all safe and Danny was already sitting at the kitchen table having cocoa when she pulled up," recalled his older sister, Joanne Franzone, of Sheridan, Ill. "She locked herself in the car and kept yelling `Which one?' We all had to come out on the porch and show we were safe before she would open the car door." "We all felt awful for months," Franzone said. "There was so much guilt."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    Shortly before school was dismissed on December 1, 1958, the Our Lady of the Angels parochial school in Chicago, a fire broke out in the basement of the school.
    Originally, the building was a church and had wings added on until it was 'U' shaped two story building, two wings joined by a hallway. Over the years, the school 'grandfathered' out of getting sprinklers installed in the building. It passed inspection in October of 1958, although there was only one fire door on the first floor, the only fire extinguisher was seven feet off the ground and classrooms were overcrowded.
    Built like schools of that era, OLA had highly waxed floors, wooden stairs,varnished woodwork, wooden lathe-type walls covered in plaster, high windowpanes that were above radiators and layers of paint on the walls. There were numerous layers of tarpaper on the building's roof. The school was thought to be safe since it was a brick building.
    Only one janitor was hired to care for the school, church and other church property. He worked hard and strived to keep the school as clean as possible. At the end of the day, students would bring down trashcans full of wastepaper to be dumped in a large cardboard-type container.
    Students in the school recalled a known firebug fellow student who went downstairs with another boy to dispose of the trash. He allegedly disappeared in the basement and the other boy went to tell his teacher that his partner didn't want to come back upstairs.
    Allegedly, the highly troubled 10-year-old had a book of matches he'd stolen from his stepfather. He used three matches to start a fire in the large container, which was located under one set of stairs. He calmly walked back to the classroom
    When a window broke due to the heat, the fire got a headstart. It didn't spread to the first floor due to the fire doors. The staircase was then transformed into a huge flue. Heat rose to the cockloft above the acoustic ceiling tiles in the classroom.
    By the time teachers and students realized that the building was on fire, it was too late. Fire companies responded, but precious time was lost when firefighters had to knock down a six-foot-tall iron gate to gain access to the second floor.
    The out-of-control blaze forced teachers and students to remain in their classrooms. Some did escape, with the help of teaching nuns either helping them get out of the window, rolling the students down the stairs, through the toxic, thick, black smoke or panic-stricken kids simply plunged 25 feet to pavement.
    Many children died of asphyxiation. In total, 92 children and three teaching nuns were killed. Firefighters were horrified when rooms filled with children flashed over before their eyes, killing everyone in the rooms instantly. Twenty eight pupils and their teacher were found in another classroom, all victims of asphyxiation.
    Eventually, the troubled student was interviewed by law enforcement officers and an expert who dealt with children. The boy confessed, then recanted his testimony. The case was thrown out of court by a judge who didn't want to implicate the Church or put the boy's life at risk from parents who might seek revenge. To this day, the case is officially unsolved.
    Instead, the hardworking janitor was made a scapegoat and his life was ruined. Families moved out of the pleasant ethnic neighborhood (Italian, Irish, Polish, German families). By the time the boy was 13, he was suspected of killing five people in a bowling alley fire. He went to a juvenille detention center until he was an adult.
    More facts about this hideous tragedy, period news articles and pictures are available at www.olafire.com.
    Thanks for the link. I have been reading the articles and going through the photos. Such a sad tragedy. And the janitor was saving people ... so to hear he was used as a scapegoat is heartbreaking.

    But it was nice to see that they tore down the old school and built a new one with every fire requirement available.
    Last edited by Frazzzld Kat; 11-29-2008 at 04:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frazzzld Kat View Post
    Thanks for the link. I have been reading the articles and going through the photos. Such a sad tragedy. And the janitor was saving people ... so to hear he was used as a scapegoat is heartbreaking.

    But it was nice to see that they tore down the old school and built a new one with every fire requirement available.
    According to a document on the OLA Fire website, Mr. Raymond, the janitor, was officially vindicated by the Mayor of Chicago and one of his sons was given a copy of the proclamation.

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    Well, I am glad to know that we Catholics like to lie about the deaths of children. I guess I screwed up the times that I called police for help for my neighbors. I guess I was commanded by the Pope himself to let them die.

    I learn something new everyday.

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    Rooms of Death

    Tribune reporter Robert Wiedrich wrote this story that appeared in the newspaper December 2, 1958.

    "Six small forms, the bodies of fourth and fifth graders, lay crumpled against the wall. In the corner, the charred body of a nun lay buried in debris of the roof which had fallen into the room.
    A fireman hacked at the wreckage of a second-floor classroom in the Our Lady of the Angels elementary school. Tears streaked his smoke-smeared face.
    'Oh, God, I've got two of my own in school,' he said,'What if these were mine?'
    In another room, the desks stood row-on-row. Each bore a waterlogged geography book. It was called Our American Neighbors. Each was open to the chapter on lumbering.

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    This was the aftermath of a fire so hot and so swift that several score young lives were taken in a matter of minutes as rescuers worked as fast as they could, but found that it was not fast enough.
    The porcelain figure of the Virgin Mary stood on a bookcase. It had been a planter. The leaves of the plant were mere ashes. And the statue looked out over a room of death. The water-soaked papers of a child working on an arithmetic problem lay on a desk. The ink had run and the figures were blurred. The paper would never be graded. The teacher was dead. So was the pupil. You could see where both had sought to flee the searing heat of the fire.

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    The nun's desk had been hurled forward as she struggled to reach her charges in the final agony of flame. And the pupil's small body was by the desk, his features contorted.
    A battalion chief sloshed through the water that flowed on the concrete floor. He said he had been one of the first at the scene. He wept as he told how firemen had tried to raise ladders to screaming children as they clung to second-floor windows, pleading for help which, for many, never came.
    'We tried,' he said,'God, how we tried. But, we couldn't move fast enough. No one could live in that fire. I saw four of them leaning over a windowsill, crying. We tried to reach them. Then, suddenly they slumped, doubled over the sill. They were dead when we got to them.'

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    The school's second floor was burned out, wall to wall. Sections of the roof collapsed. A wool mitten, decorated with sequins, lay in the rubble. Twenty more minutes and the children would have been out of school; 1,200 seconds and death would have been cheated. The blaze struck at 2:40 p.m. Classes ended at 3 p.m.
    Firemen stumbled over the wooden desks that stood in a double line in the second floor corridor. 'The ones who jumped were lucky,' said a division marshal. 'They just broke arms and legs. I hope I never see something like this again.'

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    Outside the school, parents stood. Priests knelt to give the last rites to canvas-covered forms that once had been children. Mothers wept and fathers tried to comfort, but cried, too.
    On Chicago Avenue, a block to the south, a loudspeaker blared Christmas carols from the door of a record shop. But Christmas in this neighborhood would be grim.
    In Our Lady of the Angels Church, just east of the school, the lights were out. Fire had burned the power lines. But in the pitch-black church, people knelt and prayed, the bitter smell of smoke in their nostrils. And on the steps, a woman cried. A cold wind swirled the smoke from the still smoldering school about her."

  24. #24
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    website on tragedy warning some graphic content

    http://www.olafire.com/
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    Rest, Little Angels. Today is the anniversary of this horrible tragedy, my thoughts are with you and the suffering you had.

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    what a sad and awful thing to have happened

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    Our Lady of Angels School Fire

    This story has always kind of haunted me for some reason. It was an elementary school near Chicago that caught fire and burned unbelieveable fast trapping the kids and teachers. Over 90 kids died. This is one of the better sites.
    I have never understood how the fire could cut off the exit so quickly and why the fire department couldn't get ladders up to them. Makes no sense to me.
    http://www.olafire.com/
    Regards,
    Mary

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    That's so sad. Is the school still there?

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    Dozens of household ladders had been brought from surrounding houses, but they were all too short, giving the impression from news photographs that the Fire Department's ladders were not adequate. The fire accelerated so quickly that it would have taken fifty ladders deployed all at once to rescue everyone. Maintenance personnel and neighbors rescued a number of pupils with the tall ladder owned by the school, normally used to install and remove screens from upper windows.

    It's a little easier to understand why it took forty years for the full story of this fire to be told when you consider that every official involved from the lowest-ranking cops and firemen, all the way to the Mayor of the city, was Catholic. The Catholic Church still held a near-stranglehold on Catholics' personal lives when this tragedy happened, but I like to think that it was events like this one that finally began to loosen its grip.
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    Quote Originally Posted by michihunt View Post
    That's so sad. Is the school still there?
    A new school was built on the site. I would not want to be there working late alone!
    I found this:
    Our Lady of the Angels - Haunted? A young woman attending the new school in the years after the fire reported hearing screaming and sensing a presence in the hallway when she was alone there. Later she drew faces of the victims she saw in her dreams. A mother saw her dead son come to console her. A girl was also reportedly consoled by her dead sister. At the Fire Memorial in Queen of Heaven Cemetery where 25 child victims are buried, some people say they can sometimes smell the smoke from the fire. And in the rebuilt school, built on the exact site of the old school, many find they have strong feelings of apprehension. Haunted? Who knows.


    Regards,
    Mary

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    My former father in law had the contracct for that school, he built the new one and once while he was drunk (which was all the time) He told the story of having a hard time keeping carpenters on the job because they kept seeing ghosts..he also told me the church was deeply imvolved with the mob and syndicate in those days and he would know because he was knee deep with them himself, that is how he got all those building contracts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NOVSTORM View Post
    My former father in law had the contracct for that school, he built the new one and once while he was drunk (which was all the time) He told the story of having a hard time keeping carpenters on the job because they kept seeing ghosts..he also told me the church was deeply imvolved with the mob and syndicate in those days and he would know because he was knee deep with them himself, that is how he got all those building contracts.
    See I knew great stories like this would start popping up if I posted this!
    Thanks Novstorm!
    Regards,
    Mary

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    I read a book about this fire not too long ago...it was fascinating. If I didn't have two lazy cats lying on me I could go find the title. Someone had posted about the Coconut Grove fire, and I saw a book about that on Amazon, then the Our Lady of Angels book. Well, one thing led to another, and that free shipping thing....

    My book had a list of the dead in it, and a map of the classrooms. It was amazing how some classrooms were just wiped out. IIRC, people smelled smoke, but some of the nuns waited for someone to tell them what to do, and it became too late.

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    There's a posting about this tragedy with pics that are already on this site. Cool, I never knew about the story of the haunting. The original school was razed by 1959 and a new school was built on the same site, but the new school's 'footprint' extends a bit further than the original structure.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaxyMillions View Post
    I read a book about this fire not too long ago...it was fascinating. If I didn't have two lazy cats lying on me I could go find the title. Someone had posted about the Coconut Grove fire, and I saw a book about that on Amazon, then the Our Lady of Angels book. Well, one thing led to another, and that free shipping thing....

    My book had a list of the dead in it, and a map of the classrooms. It was amazing how some classrooms were just wiped out. IIRC, people smelled smoke, but some of the nuns waited for someone to tell them what to do, and it became too late.
    Click along the top of the website I linked to. It has all sorts of classroom maps and statistics and at least one dead picture so beware.
    I would be surious about the name of the books if the cats ever give up their warm spot. I know how that can be!
    Regards,
    Mary

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    There's a posting about this tragedy with pics that are already on this site. Cool, I never knew about the story of the haunting. The original school was razed by 1959 and a new school was built on the same site, but the new school's 'footprint' extends a bit further than the original structure.
    Sorry Alan I did a couple of searches but nothing came up.
    Regards,
    Mary

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    Quote Originally Posted by STsFirstmate View Post
    This story has always kind of haunted me for some reason. It was an elementary school near Chicago that caught fire and burned unbelieveable fast trapping the kids and teachers. Over 90 kids died. This is one of the better sites.
    I have never understood how the fire could cut off the exit so quickly and why the fire department couldn't get ladders up to them. Makes no sense to me.
    http://www.olafire.com/
    Regards,
    Mary
    Mary, according to the stuff I've read at the OLA site, plus the books, the thick, toxic smoke quickly poured into classrooms, making visibility and breathing very difficult. The fire had about a half-hour's head start before it was discovered. By then, getting out of classrooms was extremely difficult if not impossible. Granted, some students and one teaching nun got down the stairs. She had to roll some of the kids down the wooden stairs due to the children being terrified.
    A large wrought iron fence took precious minutes to knock down, keeping firefighters from getting ladders to the second floor where students were screaming, crying and clawing at one another to get to the windows.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Joe Murray, a firefighter who tried to save as many lives as he could, recalled on a radio program that when he got the ladder up to Room 208, the room flashed over. He saw a larger figure that he presumed was the nun. Sister Seraphica Kelly was already dead and her body was ablaze. She was stretched over some of her little fourth grade students, trying to protect them, Murray said. Her arms were outstretched, as if reaching for help.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Quote Originally Posted by STsFirstmate View Post
    Click along the top of the website I linked to. It has all sorts of classroom maps and statistics and at least one dead picture so beware.
    I would be surious about the name of the books if the cats ever give up their warm spot. I know how that can be!
    Regards,
    Mary

    Hag business needed to take precedence! The book is To Sleep With Angels-The Story of a Fire by David Cowan and John Kuenster. It has maps, list of names and ***8 pages of photos***! There are 2 very clear shots of identified dead children being carried out, which were rough. Neither boy looked terrible, anyone that knew either could recognize them, but they were clearly dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaxyMillions View Post
    Hag business needed to take precedence! The book is To Sleep With Angels-The Story of a Fire by David Cowan and John Kuenster. It has maps, list of names and ***8 pages of photos***! There are 2 very clear shots of identified dead children being carried out, which were rough. Neither boy looked terrible, anyone that knew either could recognize them, but they were clearly dead.
    Those children came from Room 212, where the victims asphyxiated.
    Last edited by Alanwench; 07-27-2012 at 09:02 PM.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Quote Originally Posted by STsFirstmate View Post
    Sorry Alan I did a couple of searches but nothing came up.
    Regards,
    Mary
    No problem, I started a thread on the fire two or three years ago, it's under Our Lady of the Angels school fire. A lady I met several years ago lost her 13 year-old sister in the fire. She mentioned the tragedy in an e-mail and that's the first I'd heard of it.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    It's a very creepy story really makes you appreciate life. I work in a school and I think about things like this all the time. what if it happened to us?

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    I believe we have a previous thread on this one:

    Our Lady of the Angels Fire Victims
    Big Website dedicated to their memories:http://www.olafire.com/


    On December 1st, 1958 a fire started in a trash can in the basement of Our Lady Of The Angels Catholic school, 3820 W. Iowa St. on the west side of Chicago, killing 92 children and 3 nuns. The fire and smoke spread quickly through the school because the door to the second floor hallway had been left open trapping the children and nuns in the classrooms on the upper floors. Access to the only entrance, exit, and fire escape were cut off due to the smoke and flames and the fire trucks were given the address of the church rectory instead of the school wasting precious time. Many children died in the school while some fell to their deaths as they tried to escape through the windows. While there was a rumor of a boy playing with matches, the exact cause of the fire has never been determined. Many of the children who died are buried at the base of this memorial. bio by: Bobby Hart)


    Search Amazon for Our Lady of the Angels Fire Victims Burial:
    Queen of Heaven Cemetery
    Hillside
    Cook County
    Illinois, USA
    GPS (lat/lon): 41.85822, -87.90949
    *Memorial Site
    Maintained by: Find A Grave
    Record added: Mar 13, 2000
    Find A Grave Memorial# 8839Added by: Roger

    There are 5 more photos not showing..Click here to view all images...Photos may be scaled.
    Click on image for full size.
    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...e=gr&GRid=8839
    Last edited by Nicki; 01-03-2010 at 02:13 PM.

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    The first picture became famous as a fire prevention poster. John Jajkowski's lifeless body is being carried out of the ruins of the school.
    After the fire was extinguished, this is all that remained of the second floor of the main building. The next photo shows firemen battling the blaze at the height of the fire. An asphyxiated girl is carried out of Room 212.

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    One Unexpected Result of the Fire

    The Chicago Fire Department was the first in the world to use an "elevated firefighting platform," sometimes known as a "cherry picker" and sometimes as a "snorkle." The ability to get above a fire gave firefighters a huge advantage, and the CFD's unit, which was still not much beyond the experimental stage responded to the OLTA fire, where it was seen in the front pages of newspapers around the world the next day. The results were that firefighters, citizens, and municipal officials saw the pictures and thought "WE need one of those!" Today, it's such a standard and essential piece of apparatus for an urban fire department that nobody gives it a second thought, but it had to start somewhere.
    You say you've lost your mind? Well, if you ever find it again, please look and see if mine is there too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by STsFirstmate View Post
    A new school was built on the site. I would not want to be there working late alone!
    I found this:
    Our Lady of the Angels - Haunted? A young woman attending the new school in the years after the fire reported hearing screaming and sensing a presence in the hallway when she was alone there. Later she drew faces of the victims she saw in her dreams. A mother saw her dead son come to console her. A girl was also reportedly consoled by her dead sister. At the Fire Memorial in Queen of Heaven Cemetery where 25 child victims are buried, some people say they can sometimes smell the smoke from the fire. And in the rebuilt school, built on the exact site of the old school, many find they have strong feelings of apprehension. Haunted? Who knows.


    Regards,
    Mary


    This is very creepy-but perhaps the children trying to console their loved ones is not creepy but comforting to them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoxharding View Post
    This is very creepy-but perhaps the children trying to console their loved ones is not creepy but comforting to them.
    Good point, hoxharding. The woman I mentioned in an earlier post, who lost her sister in the fire, has often expressed wishing that her sister's spirit could visit her.
    Carol Ann Gazzola was 13 and was in Room 211 with Sister Helaine and other eighth grade students. She was missing 48 hours. During that time, the woman I know was at her mother's house trying to console her.
    Since this lady was pregnant with her fourth child, her husband thought it best that she stayed away from his trip to the morgue. He had to identify Carol Ann. All he had for identification purposes was a shoe and a necklace that she was wearing. Her body had third degree burns and was completely incinerated in other areas. She had one arm and one leg.
    Last edited by Alanwench; 01-04-2010 at 02:16 PM.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

  48. #48
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    This story has always haunted me too. I went to a Catholic school for kindergarten and we had fire drills every week. I remember asking why we did this and my teacher told me it was because a school burned down a long time ago and killed many children who couldn't escape.

    I think that was the beginning of my Death Hagness.


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    I'd never heard of this until now. Wow.
    The most dangerous woman of all is the one who refuses to rely on your sword to save her because she carries her own.

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    I think this resonates with me because there were two buildings in the Catholic grade school I attended. The "new " building completed in the late 50s and the "old" building which was built right after the civil war.
    I loved the old building. It still had nonfunctioning gas light fixtures, 12 foot ceilings and was still heated by a coal furnace. The stairs were marble with ornate iron railings.
    It had a separate boys and girls entrance and the bathrooms actually had pull chains to flush the toilet. The old building was reserved for the upper grades 6th, 7th and 8th. I once asked one of the nun's why it was only the upper grades there and she said after the OLA fire it had been decided that it would be easier to evacuate older children from the building. She told me all about the fire and I was hooked ( young death hag in a blue jumper and saddle oxfords).
    I was always bother by the nativity scene in the church at Christmas. I told my Dad it looked like a fire waiting to happen with the cutout backlit town windows and straw in the manger. He kept telling me it was safe. I even had dreams about it burning the church down.
    Years later after I had moved to Boston and just before my parents retired back to Kentucky my Dad called at Christmas and said "Assumption Church burned last night. Your manger scene finally caught fire. It was definately identified as the cause of the fire.
    I hated that the church burned but I knew it would happen sooner or later! Thanks for the merge Mods!
    Regards,
    Mary

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