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Thread: Our Lady of the Angels school fire

  1. #101
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    I forgot to add that in the documentary, "Angels Too Soon," the suspected arsonist's class picture is briefly shown with the boy's face blurred. He appeared to be husky, with blonde hair and he wore horn rimmed glasses.
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  2. #102
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    One woman's account of the OLA fire

    This elderly lady is a friend of mine and she posted the following story at the OLA fire website. Here are her words, exactly as she typed them. Please keep in mind that she's in her mid-80s and types in capital letters because that's what she's best able to see to read and write. Her 13 year-old sister, Carol Ann Gazzola, died in Room 211, one of the worst hit rooms in the school. Nearly half of the eighth grade class (including Carol Ann) died on December 1, 1958.

    THIS IS WHAT I REMEMBER ON THAT DAY. I WAS HOME WITH MY TWO DAUGHTERS AND I WAS PREGENT WITH MY SON. I WAS ORDERING CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR MY SISTER, AND THE PHONE RANG IT WAS MY BEST FRIEND, AND SHE TOLD ME THE SCHOOL WAS ON FIRE. SO I CALLED TO SEE IF MY SISTER WAS HOME AND THE LINE WAS BUSY, SO I THOUGHT SHE WAS HOME. I LIVED ON THE SOUTH SIDE AT THE TIME, HAD NO WAY OF GOING TO HER. THEN MY MOM CALLED TO TELL ME THEY COULDN'T FIND HER. IT WAS SO HARD BEING ALONE WITH THE GIRLS, I DIDN'T WANT TO SCARE THEM. SO I CALLED MY HUSBAND AND HE TOOK ME BY MY MOM. WHEN MY OLDEST DAUGHTER GREW UP SHE TOLD ME HOW I WAS CRYING, I REALLY DON'T REMEMBER WHAT I WAS DOING. WE WERE UP FOR 47 HOURES THE FAMILY WAS LOOKING ALL OVER FOR HER. THEY WOULDN'T LET ME GO WITH THEM. WHEN THE PHONE RANG AND TOLD MY MOM HAD TO IDENTIFY SOME BODIES, WHEN THEY LEFT I KNEW SHE WAS DEAD. I REMEMBER MY HUSBASND COULDN'T TALK ABOUT IT FOR A LONG TIME, HE SAW ALL THE BODIES. AND THEY WOULDN'T TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT HER TILL I HAD MY BABY. WHAT I FOUND OUT I COULDN'T TELL MY MOM, IT WOULD HAVE KILLED HER. SO I HAD TO DO SOMETHING I NEVER DID LIE TO MY MOM ABOUT HOW SHE DIED. MY SISTER'S BODY HAD 2ND, 3RD. AND 4TH DEGREE BURNS ALL OVER HER BODY. SHE ALSO HAD AN ARM AND LEG MISSING. THE ONLY WAY MY MOM IDENIFIED HER WAS MY A CHAIN AND A SHOE. I STILL HAVE THE BURNED CHAIN. THIS DAY WAS THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE. I HOPE I DIDN'T UPSET ANYONE, BUT I HAD TO TELL THE WHOLE STORY, JUST THE WAY IT WAS. I HOPE THERE ARE OTHERS WHO WOULD LIKE TO SHARE THERE STORY. I FEEL IT IS GOOD TO TALK ABOUT IT. THIS STORY IS NEVER OUT OF MY MIND, IT IS LIKE IT HAPPENED TODAY. GOD BLESS YOU ALL LOVE DEE
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  3. #103
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    If you got the info. from the OLA fire website, the arsonist's name was never mentioned. The website owner steadfastly refuses to name the arsonist, saying that although he's deceased, his relatives might seek legal action since the boy (at the time) was never formally charged with arson and murder. Most of the surviving students agreed on one student as the suspected arsonist and they won't mention his name, either. I thought the same as you did about the first kid out of the room until I e-mailed the website owner asking about the arsonist's identity.
    Yeah. That's where I got it from. Darn.

    I wish there was a way to find out who was enrolled in that school at the time and who was in 206 that day. But, records have probably been completely covered up.



    I may come across as an asshole for saying this. But, I really hope they know that by not identifying him that they let 100 of their classmates be violently murdered and never did a damn thing about it. Not saying they didn't care. But, I have no idea why no one said anything. That's just my 2 cents. Kids or not. If someone had lit my school up (when I was in school back in the 90s) And, I survived. I would have sang like a canary to the cops. I mean. I really hate to say that. But, that's kinda how I feel. I've always hated cover-ups. Cause, it never seems like anyone gets full closure/justice...and whatnot. I know they felt that they could leave it up to God. But, I'm a Christian and I still feel there should be an earthly justice price to pay as well. He went on to kill more people after the OLA fire too. And, maybe even some after that. But, if he had been caught then. Even as a kid. They could have gotten him mental help at least so he wouldn't go on to hurt others.

    That just goes to the kids. I don't think any of the adults who lost children knew. But, maybe I'm wrong. If it was me. I would have named the boy.
    Last edited by Dr. Fishhead; 07-18-2012 at 12:51 AM.
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  4. #104
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    When the police were questioning the surviving students, the boy's name came up immediately. Every kid identified the same person. Parents of deceased and living children wanted justice to be served, but the Archdiocese in Chicago had a very firm hold on everything that happened in a legal sense.
    Two police investigators, one specializing in arson cases, spoke at length with the boy and felt certain that he caused the fire, because he provided information that only the arsonist would know, the location of the trash barrel under the stairs. This area of the school wasn't mentioned in news accounts to help ferret out the suspect from some mentally ill wannabees who came in to confess.
    Judge Alfred Cilella believed in his heart that the boy set the fire, but he ruled the fire accidental for two reasons:
    1. He believed that grieving parents would kill the boy.
    2. His loyalty to the Catholic Church blindsided him, along with pressure from the Archdiocese.
    Surviving students were not allowed to discuss the fire or the boy and authority figures in school and in church tried to sweep the entire tragedy under the rug. Most of the powers that be weren't hesitant to pin the blame on janitor James Raymond, when in reality, Raymond saved the lives of many children. The stigma stayed on Raymond, and he saw himself as a failure who allowed children to die. He wound up drinking heavily and withdrawing from his family before dying of Cancer in the 1960s. Finally, his sons and family members were able to get his name cleared formally by the City of Chicago in 2008. It's unreal the hold the Church had over people in the late 1950s.
    Judge Cilella was verbally attacked, very frequently by his wife and friends for making the decision to not charge the boy with arson. A few years after the fire he became ill and died from an undisclosed illness. After the bowling alley fire in Cicero, IL, which happened two or three years after the OLA fire,the arsonist was sent to a reformatory in Michigan where he stayed until he was released. He then served in Viet Nam. I'm not sure if he volunteered or was forced to go (e.g. the draft). He died either in the late 1990s or early 2000-2001.
    You don't come off as being unsensitive, it's my fault for not including detailed information. There are so many facts, names and details related to the origin of the fire, the story from survivors, etc., that I kind of glossed over the whole thing. Many surviving students to this day are resentful or bitter. Some have accepted what happened and have gone on. Nearly all of these former students lead productive, successful lives regardless of how they felt about how the case with the boy was handled.
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  5. #105
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    I cannot believe that I never heard of this story. Thanks for all the information Allenwrench.

    My young daughter attends a Catholic grade school now (as did I) and the school was built well over 100 years ago. They practice fire drills till they are blue in the face. I cannot imagine this would happen today.

    As for the young suspect, the site said he died in 2004. Not naming him serves no purpose anymore, and I am sure eventually, his name will get out. Most of the kids that survived probably dont use the internet and thats why you cannot find his name out. Theres no doubt in my mind he probably went on to hurt others throughout his life.
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  6. #106
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    Forgive the double post (as it may get mentioned) but I didnt want to add this to my other post. In searching I found an old article from the Chicago Tribune from the 50th anniversary of the fire. There are 68 comments on Topix on this article, and many about who the suspected arsonist was. Based on the age of the arsonist, and his grade, there were only 4 boys in his class (including him) and their names are all mentioned. There is a consensus as to who he was and this last post I have copied and pasted which leaves little doubt as to whom the boy was. Interestingly enough, this last comment was just posted in May of 2012 even though the article is from 2008.

    Here is the comment:

    The justice ruined the life of the janitor who was innocent, but instead, protected the real murderer, a 10yo boy from Cicero who confessed lit the fire. He draw a perfect plan and located precisely the origin of the fire; as well as he mentioned details the police didn't released. The judge Alfred Cilella admitted years later in private that he had known the boy was guilty.

    The boy continued to light more arson fires; one of which had fatalities.

    The list of survivors of class 206 mention
    three confirmed 10yo boys,
    two 11yo and
    three boys of unconfirmed age.

    According their respective testimonies, J. Grosso and P. Sprovieri (both 10yo) were sent to the basement for an unknown reason. They both turned back together in class when they saw the smoke.
    "On the afternoon of the fire, Ms. Tristano sent me (Grosso) and another boy on an errand down to the basement but we never made it. We saw smoke and went back to the room."
    Sprovieri sister says "He (Sprovieri) and another student were in the halls completing some job or task they were given when they saw the smoke. They ran and told their teacher who instructed the class to evacuated from the school"

    W. Kellner went to the basement before the fire to empty garbage pails with another student but came back alone,
    "On the day of the fire, I was sent down to the basement along with another student from Room 206, a prime candidate for having started the fire, to empty garbage pails. I knew this student pretty well and had seen him light matches in apartment buildings prior to the date of the fire [...] he did not return to the classroom when I did that day, that there was no fire in the basement of the school during the time I was in the basement of the school and that the fire was noticed shortly after this student returned to the classroom"

    That don't match the confession of the arsonist who declares being alone,
    "I asked my teacher if I could be excused and went to the washroom..."

    Another whiteness from the same class confirm the arsonist confession, remembered him leaving the classroom at around 2 pm.
    "I remember him raising his hand, right around two o'clock, asking to use the washroom. He left that room and when he came back it wasn't long before Miss
    Tristano noticed the smoke and had us evacuate."

    More strange, a fourth schooler, F. Grimaldi (11yo) said before coroner's jury being in the basement alone too,
    "...went to John in AM, heard funny sounding noise in boiler room, can't explain it. Went to John in early afternoon, smelled smoke. Ran upstairs to 2nd floor and told nun about smoke. Teacher was Miss Pearl Tristano, lay teacher.".

    That let as arsonist,
    a) the three boys of unconfirmed age :
    V. Jacobellis
    M. Leonard
    G. Mash
    b) F. Grimaldi (although is is 11 yo)
    or c) W. Kellner himself

    What we know from the John E. Reid report on arsonist confession :
    Lives at 1836 South 50 or 58th Avenue in Cicero, Illinois
    Date of birth : October 4, 1948
    After the fire, he was transferred to St. Attracta; and later at Cicero public school.

    Some sources said he died in California in September 2004 (not confirmed)



    The comments are VERY interesting. I havent the time now, but later when I do, I will do more digging.
    Last edited by lisalouver; 07-18-2012 at 05:34 PM.
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  7. #107
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    Thanks to AlanWench I am now addicted to this fire story too. Just fascinating and tragic. The story of the unnamed arsonist has me hooked.
    Last edited by LLC; 07-21-2012 at 11:39 PM.

  8. #108
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    If you look at the site where the admin says they know the name of the arsonist but will not tell it, there is a list by classroom of survivors. Names, ages and "where they are now" is listed. Room 206 is the room where the arsonist came from. Two boys that are mentioned in the comments above, Wayne Kellner, and James Grosso, both age 10 are listed and are the only two 10 year olds that are mentioned only with "escaped without injury" and no other comments.

    Paul Spovieri, who was also age 10 and in the room passed away 2 years after the suspected arsonist, so that rules him out.

    If left to draw your own conclusions, it is either Kellner lied and it was him, or it was indeed Grosso? Or was it one of the three boys whose ages are not listed?

    Kellner posted on the site in 2003 about who the arsonist was.. (no name) and Grosso is on the site at least in 2003, trying to see if he was on after that.

    We honestly dont have any confirmation that the suspected arsonist is indeed dead, so it could be one of the ones still alive?

    Found an article from 2008 where Grosso is still alive ... he was also in the military.

    http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles...rred_childhood
    Last edited by lisalouver; 07-18-2012 at 06:30 PM. Reason: Add more info
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  9. #109
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    Quote Originally Posted by lisalouver View Post
    If you look at the site where the admin says they know the name of the arsonist but will not tell it, there is a list by classroom of survivors. Names, ages and "where they are now" is listed. Room 206 is the room where the arsonist came from. Two boys that are mentioned in the comments above, Wayne Kellner, and James Grosso, both age 10 are listed and are the only two 10 year olds that are mentioned only with "escaped without injury" and no other comments.

    Paul Spovieri, who was also age 10 and in the room passed away 2 years after the suspected arsonist, so that rules him out.

    If left to draw your own conclusions, it is either Kellner lied and it was him, or it was indeed Grosso. My money is on Grosso.

    Once I have more time and can try and confirm the birthdate of Grosso and/or Kellner, that will be confirmation enough for me.
    I was guessing they left the arsonist name off the list completely. You could be right, Lisa.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LLC View Post
    I was guessing they left the arsonist name off the list completely. You could be right, Lisa.
    Now I edited my post because I found more info LOL!!!

    I dont know what to think anymore... but I keep digging!

    ETA: Found Jim Grosso's FB page. I wont link here, but there are pics of him in Vietnam. He is still very much alive.

    Anyone want to FB msg him and ask him who it was in his class????
    Last edited by lisalouver; 07-18-2012 at 06:41 PM. Reason: Add info
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  11. #111
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    I would hesitate to contact Jim Grosso since I occasionally post at the OLA site, but if someone wants to find out the identity of the arsonist, go for it. I don't think Kellner is the arsonist and tend to believe that his name was left out of the roster on the OLA page. If memory serves me correctly, Grosso attends reunions and I honestly believe he isn't the arsonist. Charlene Campanale (now deceased) contacted a private investigator with a few other OLA almunae and the arsonist is deceased.
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  12. #112
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    I would hesitate to contact Jim Grosso since I occasionally post at the OLA site, but if someone wants to find out the identity of the arsonist, go for it. I don't think Kellner is the arsonist and tend to believe that his name was left out of the roster on the OLA page. If memory serves me correctly, Grosso attends reunions and I honestly believe he isn't the arsonist. Charlene Campanale (now deceased) contacted a private investigator with a few other OLA almunae and the arsonist is deceased.
    Grosso has attended reunions, yes. He is in that article I linked to about the reunions.

    Idk if Kellner is still alive? I havent found anything about him on the site other than someone posting as him from 2003 and telling the story of he and the arsonist being together. What he said seems plausible, but honestly who knows?

    Someone else on that Topix page mentioned the arsonist being deceased since 2001, not 2004. But most mention that he had many other issues with fires, went to Vietnam (I would guess he was drafted) drove a truck for a living and moved to (and died in) California (2004).

    The Topix post lists the address of the arsonist as well as his birthday. That is some useful information.
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  13. #113
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    When the police were questioning the surviving students, the boy's name came up immediately. Every kid identified the same person. Parents of deceased and living children wanted justice to be served, but the Archdiocese in Chicago had a very firm hold on everything that happened in a legal sense.
    Two police investigators, one specializing in arson cases, spoke at length with the boy and felt certain that he caused the fire, because he provided information that only the arsonist would know, the location of the trash barrel under the stairs. This area of the school wasn't mentioned in news accounts to help ferret out the suspect from some mentally ill wannabees who came in to confess.
    Judge Alfred Cilella believed in his heart that the boy set the fire, but he ruled the fire accidental for two reasons:
    1. He believed that grieving parents would kill the boy.
    2. His loyalty to the Catholic Church blindsided him, along with pressure from the Archdiocese.
    Surviving students were not allowed to discuss the fire or the boy and authority figures in school and in church tried to sweep the entire tragedy under the rug. Most of the powers that be weren't hesitant to pin the blame on janitor James Raymond, when in reality, Raymond saved the lives of many children. The stigma stayed on Raymond, and he saw himself as a failure who allowed children to die. He wound up drinking heavily and withdrawing from his family before dying of Cancer in the 1960s. Finally, his sons and family members were able to get his name cleared formally by the City of Chicago in 2008. It's unreal the hold the Church had over people in the late 1950s.
    Judge Cilella was verbally attacked, very frequently by his wife and friends for making the decision to not charge the boy with arson. A few years after the fire he became ill and died from an undisclosed illness. After the bowling alley fire in Cicero, IL, which happened two or three years after the OLA fire,the arsonist was sent to a reformatory in Michigan where he stayed until he was released. He then served in Viet Nam. I'm not sure if he volunteered or was forced to go (e.g. the draft). He died either in the late 1990s or early 2000-2001.
    You don't come off as being unsensitive, it's my fault for not including detailed information. There are so many facts, names and details related to the origin of the fire, the story from survivors, etc., that I kind of glossed over the whole thing. Many surviving students to this day are resentful or bitter. Some have accepted what happened and have gone on. Nearly all of these former students lead productive, successful lives regardless of how they felt about how the case with the boy was handled.
    Oh. So it was the Archdiocese that covered it up. Not the kids. That gives me alot of relief. ALOT. Thanks for that info Alan.

    I wonder if the kid was born in Chicago. If so. Someone in the area could always check old newspapers for birth announcements if they indeed ran them in the 1940s.
    Last edited by Dr. Fishhead; 07-19-2012 at 02:11 AM.
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  14. #114
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    This fire has always haunted me.

    I believe my mom went to this school in the 30's or was baptized there, or both. She grew up only a few blocks away.

    Going to Catholic school in the suburbs in the 60's this fire was talked about all the time and partially fed my morbid fear of fire as a child. When the book came out my children were in Catholic school and almost the same grades. It was the only book I've ever read I had to continually put down to cry.

    The monument and gravesite is quite near to my dad's in Queen of Heaven. About 10 years ago while visiting Dad I walked over to it. Every headstone had a fresh flower on it. Some had toys and other mementos. I was both happy that these poor little victims have not been forgotten and so sad I had to leave immediately.

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    Instead of being protected the little bastard should have been flayed alive.


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    Quote Originally Posted by toddmanning View Post
    Oh. So it was the Archdiocese that covered it up. Not the kids. That gives me alot of relief. ALOT. Thanks for that info Alan.

    I wonder if the kid was born in Chicago. If so. Someone in the area could always check old newspapers for birth announcements if they indeed ran them in the 1940s.
    No problem. I think the kid was born in Chicago, but I'm not 100% sure.
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    I've read the two books on this case, and I don't remember either focusing on the arsonist much, though I do remember the story of the poor janitor who ended up being a scapegoat. It blows my mind that the church covered for the little demon who likely set the blaze. Unbelievable. I'd imagine if the child's address is now available, someone could track down the home's ownership records. Reading through this thread makes me want to pull up those books on my Kindle again for a re-read.

  18. #118
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    This is from a memorial page to the victims of the fire on the OLA website:
    "On the Sunday night before the fire, when I told Kathy and her sister it was time for bed, Kathy said she was scared, and asked me to lay with her. After awhile, she said she was okay now and instead of saying "good night daddy", she said, "good bye daddy"! When she came home for lunch the day of the fire, she asked her mother if she could stay home. Her mother told her she needed to go back to school, and to remember when you are in school the nun is like your mother and you need to do what ever she tells you to do. She died in the arms of Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley. Because her mother sent her back to school where she died, her mother carried that guilt the rest of her life. Her mother passed away in 1991."
    -- (Harold Carr, Father)
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    It's like she just knew that it was going to be the last time that she was going to see her dad. So depressing.



    I'm going to the library on Monday and I'm going to look for Michele McBride's book. Even though it's out of print. There's a chance that our old arse library may have it.
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    "Good bye, Daddy."

    Attachment 42802 This is from a memorial page to the victims of the fire on the OLA website:
    "On the Sunday night before the fire, when I told Kathy and her sister it was time for bed, Kathy said she was scared, and asked me to lay with her. After awhile, she said she was okay now and instead of saying "good night daddy", she said, "good bye daddy"! When she came home for lunch the day of the fire, she asked her mother if she could stay home. Her mother told her she needed to go back to school, and to remember when you are in school the nun is like your mother and you need to do what ever she tells you to do. She died in the arms of Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley. Because her mother sent her back to school where she died, her mother carried that guilt the rest of her life. Her mother passed away in 1991."
    -- (Harold Carr, Father)
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  21. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    Attachment 42802 This is from a memorial page to the victims of the fire on the OLA website:
    "On the Sunday night before the fire, when I told Kathy and her sister it was time for bed, Kathy said she was scared, and asked me to lay with her. After awhile, she said she was okay now and instead of saying "good night daddy", she said, "good bye daddy"! When she came home for lunch the day of the fire, she asked her mother if she could stay home. Her mother told her she needed to go back to school, and to remember when you are in school the nun is like your mother and you need to do what ever she tells you to do. She died in the arms of Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley. Because her mother sent her back to school where she died, her mother carried that guilt the rest of her life. Her mother passed away in 1991."
    -- (Harold Carr, Father)

    The guilt must have been horrible.

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    I could never be a parent. Solely because if I had put my child into a situation like that I would never forgive myself. Heck. I'd probably become suicidal.
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  23. #123
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    Oh my. I just read that the sick little ________ (put your own slur here) that did this was masturbating during the police interrogation.
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    The suspected arsonist was observed by interrogators as he saw a picture of a big carpeted staircase at the White House in a magazine. After masturbating a few times, he tore the page out of the magazine and stuffed it into his pants pocket. Sorry about the double posting of the Kathleen Carr story, but I can't make the duplicate delete.
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    Period Newspaper Story about OLA Fire

    Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa...The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible!
    CHICAGO, Dec 15 - (Newsweek)- At 2:40 of a clear and cold afternoon on Chicago's West Side, the janitor of Our Lady of the Angels parochial school - a 50-year-old red-brick building that used to be a church - had just completed a routine check of the school's boiler room on Hamlin Street. The janitor, James Raymond, was walking slowly along the north side of the two-story building when he noticed smoke coming out of a second-floor window. “I ran to the door of the rectory, jerked it open, and yelled to the cook inside: 'Call the Fire Department, quick!'”.
    In a second-story, eighth-grade classroom, Sister Mary Davidis was at the blackboard explaining a problem in arithmetic. There were twenty minutes to go before school would be over for the day. “One of the boys in the back row said, very quietly: 'Sister, I smell smoke.' I thought the most important thing was to prevent panic, so I slowly walked to the back door and opened it. Thick smoke started pouring in. I urged the children to be quiet and to move all the chairs away from the windows because I could see that was probably the only way out.”
    At 2:42, the speaker box at Engine Co. 85, Eighteenth Battalion, five blocks away, rasped: “Engine 85, Fire. Thirty eight O eight Iowa. Engine 85, Fire. Thirty eight O eight Iowa.” Lt. Stanley Wojnicki picked up his phone and acknowledged the alarm. “Thirty-eight O eight Iowa.” Then he jumped aboard the clanging engine that was already pulling out.
    Inside the north wing of the school, flames were shooting up the back stairwell. Where they had started, or how, no one could be sure but apparently the fire had got its impetus from trash at the back stairway's foot. Sister Mary Davidis told her class to shout across the courtyard to the south wing: “The school is on fire, the school is on fire.” Seconds later, the alarms began to ring throughout the building. In the south wing, the children started filing out. In the north wing's ground floor, the four lower grades did the same, excited but orderly. Sister St. Florence, the principal, led her third grade to the street. “Then I went back. I saw that the children from the second floor had stopped half way on the stairs. They were afraid to go farther. 'Come on,' I called, 'it's safe down here. Just hurry up'.” On the second floor, Sister Mary Davidis had been right: The windows were the only way out. One after another, the children climbed out to the ledge, then dropped.
    At 2:43 janitor Raymond was running up the front staircase. “The hallway was full of smoke. The dirtiest and thickest smoke I ever saw. Kids were wandering all around coughing and crying. I grabbed a few by their hands and took them to the fire escape. I went back to one of the locker rooms where I heard somebody banging on the door. The door wouldn't open so I busted it. I grabbed a few kids and led them through the smoke to the fire escape. I must have made about five trips like that. Then I passed out.”
    On the second floor, Sister Andrienne, tall among her frightened children was trying to get them down the smoke-choked stairs. “I kept telling them: 'Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, just run down the stairs.' But the stairway was beginning to burn now and the children balked at going through. Some of them I had to roll down these stairs. And some I carried. God gave me untold strength.”
    At 2:44 Patrolman Matthew Landers, who had heard the alarm in his squad car, skidded up in front of the school. “It was a horrible sight. About twenty kids laying around on the ground, all twisted and some unconscious. I carried three of them to my car and put them on the back seat. Some other fellow got in next to me carrying a girl who was all bleeding. I never found out who he was. We took off for Garfield Park Hospital and I saw the first firemen coming.”
    Engine 85 roared up. “It couldn't have taken us more than a minute or two to get there,” said Lieutenant Wojnicki. “When we pulled up, we saw hell.” (Tough, thickset Stanley Wojnicki broke down and wept while talking to Newsweek's reporter two days later..
    Like Sister Mary Davidis, 27-year-old Sister Clara Therese - “always cheerful and of beautiful face” - realized that her class could escape only by the windows. She perched herself quietly on the sill and handed the children out to the ledge, encouraged them to drop with words like: “It's not really so far.” (It was actually about 25 feet.) The classroom by then was aflame. It was furnace hot. But the children got out and to the ground. Sister Clara Therese, duty done, fell back into the classroom. And there Sister Therese died.
    At 2:45 Hook and Ladder Co. No. 35 got there with five men and Lt. Charles Kamin. “Children were jumping out of the second-floor windows or leaning out yelling for help,” said Kamin. “I ordered one ladder run up, then I ran around the corner and saw more bodies in the court and more kids at the windows. I yelled at my men to bring the other ladders and the life net to that side. I ran up one of the ladders myself. I looked around and the man behind me was being sick at his stomach. The sight was too much.”
    The kids in Sister Mary Davidis's room were luckier than others. Broken legs and twisted ankles, but alive. “By the time the firemen ran up the first ladder to our window, most of the children were already on the ground. But the air was so hot I burned my hand just by touching the window sill. After all of the children had left, I got down with a fireman's help). The room was an inferno.” (Sister Mary Davidis was hospitalized with burned hands and blistered face.)
    At 2:51 the Fire Department sounded the five-eleven alarm calling all available city equipment to the scene. Capt. Harry Penzin of the Austin Police Station called on his radio for every police wagon and ambulance in Chicago. “I sent my men out to direct the traffic, make sure we didn't have any collisions of rescue equipment. In minutes, we had twenty stretcher cars there.” All the streets around the school were filling up now with heavy equipment and cars. Among the firemen and policemen were inextricably mingled the swelling crowd of frenzied parents.
    Thirteen-year-old Joey Urban was pressed into a second-floor window when he saw his mother, Mrs. Lucille Urban, frantically waving to him in the turmoil directly below. “I hollered to my boy to jump, for god's sakes, jump, because I saw there was no time for the firemen to pick him up. Joey yelled something back, and then he came down. I stood there and just tried to catch him. Heavens be blessed, I did. I broke his fall with this here knee” - it was bloody and bruised - “and we both fell on the ground. But I saved my boy.”
    At 3 o'clock Lieutenant Kamin had all his ladders working at top speed. “My men were passing the children through the windows.” Then, at the top of his own ladder, “I saw the most terrifying thing in my life. In front of me was a smoke-filled window full of kids laying on top of each other in I don't know how many layers. They must have been screaming but I couldn't hear a thing. All I could think was, get them out, get them out. The ones on top of the pile were pushing so hard against the ladder I had to push them back so I could grab them one at at time by their clothes and pull them out. The heat was terrific. The kids were completely hysterical. I worked like a robot, pushing in, reaching out, dropping them down on the ground. I didn't have time worrying about the ones I dropped. If they were to live I had to get them out. I only hoped they'd fall on other children and it would break their fall. I pulled out eight - seven boys and one girl. When I pulled the eighth kid out, the air ignited and the whole window was suddenly a mass of fire. The boy's clothes caught fire but I pulled him out.
    “Then I saw that big pile of kids, as close to me as you are, just turning dead like a burned pile of papers. Poof. And they were dead.”
    In a seventh-grade geography class, the sister had evidently seen that escape was shut off and instructed her children to remain seated at their desks until help arrived. But help did not arrive in time. Some of the children died at their desks where obediently they sat. “They all looked so lifelike,” said Dr. M. H. Turek, “so unprepared for anything. They suffocated instantly. They couldn't have suffered much.” But no one would ever know for sure what happened in that room.
    At 3:19 a blackened Lieutenant Kamin climbed down the ladder and “started organizing the routine work, breaking the roof to let the gases out and so on. For the kids there was nothing more we could do.” It had all happened in 30 minutes. Now it was all over.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    http://youtu.be/YLhO25vBT5c This is a link to footage shot by the Chicago Fire Department as the fire happened. Some of the images in the video aren't of the best quality, due to age and other factors.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    Attachment 42802 This is from a memorial page to the victims of the fire on the OLA website:
    "On the Sunday night before the fire, when I told Kathy and her sister it was time for bed, Kathy said she was scared, and asked me to lay with her. After awhile, she said she was okay now and instead of saying "good night daddy", she said, "good bye daddy"! When she came home for lunch the day of the fire, she asked her mother if she could stay home. Her mother told her she needed to go back to school, and to remember when you are in school the nun is like your mother and you need to do what ever she tells you to do. She died in the arms of Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley. Because her mother sent her back to school where she died, her mother carried that guilt the rest of her life. Her mother passed away in 1991."
    -- (Harold Carr, Father)
    Omg. I'd be beside my self.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nelliebean View Post
    The guilt must have been horrible.
    I don't think I could have gone on...

    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    The suspected arsonist was observed by interrogators as he saw a picture of a big carpeted staircase at the White House in a magazine. After masturbating a few times, he tore the page out of the magazine and stuffed it into his pants pocket. Sorry about the double posting of the Kathleen Carr story, but I can't make the duplicate delete.
    Say what?

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    I don't recall precisely where the kid was held for questioning, but he was observed via a two-way mirror. He thought he was alone in the room and was leafing through magazines.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Sister Clare Therese Champagne, Room 212

    Sister Clare Therese Champagne died along with some of her 5th grade students. Most of the people in this classroom asphyxiated instead of burning to death. Her birth name was Eloise Champagne and she had been a former Queen of the Mardi Gras. She was only 28 years old and was fondly remembered by students and fellow sisters as having artistic talent, an easygoing manner and a delightful sense of humor.
    Attachment 42806
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng, Room 210

    Attachment 42807 Sister Canice Lyng died with her students in room 210. Many victims in this room burned to death. She was last seen helping students jump from the window in a vain attempt to save as many lives as possible. Her body was identified by a laundry identification number sewn onto her undergarments.
    Last edited by Alanwench; 07-21-2012 at 11:43 PM.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    Sister Seraphica (Mary Kelly) Room 208

    Attachment 42808 The diminuitive Sister Seraphica bravely stayed with her panic-stricken, crying fourth grade students until the end. Survivors recall their classmates crying for their mothers as smoke and flames filled the room. When the ceiling of the second floor collapsed, it occured directly over Room 208. The Sister's badly charred remains were found beneath the rubble. Her body was shielding the remains of Kathleen Carr. A firefighter who saved students until the room reached the temperature for a "flash-over" of fire recalls seeing the burning body of Sister Seraphica. He was haunted by the way her arms seemed to "reach out for help."
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    I am old, and remember this story when it happened when I was quite small. I've never forgotten it, one of my earliest memories, as it seemed to be all our parents talked about for a long time.

    Our elementary school was so very, very old at that time, and had far outlived the code standards even in that era , but that was a different time, small town, no TV type follow up like now, just bits of news, sports, weather. Many bonds for a new school had been submitted, all of our parents worked tirelessly for it, but it failed in election for years - taxes would have been raised a tiny fraction. After this tragedy it shook the town, and the bonds for a new school were passed. That school was immediately torn down. They crammed every student into another elementary school in town while a new school was built.

    I've always remembered to this day Our Lady of the Angels, the children, the terrible tragedy. I'm thankful that this board family remembers the victims and survivors, families, also.

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    You're welcome, dia846. I didn't know about this horrible tragedy until I met an elderly woman in 2002. Her sister died in the fire at age 13.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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    I often this of this and wonder. What if something like this happens again? Partly because here in my city. In 1999 an elementary school did burn down....and I mean...charred. But, luckily. It happened at 5:30 in the morning and no one was there at the time except a janitor. And, he got out.

    But, the other schools in my town. Even the high school. Are as old as Shearer (the name of the school that burnt to a crisp) was and I have niece in the elementary that I went to. It isn't safe. Built in the 1950s. Wooden doors, glass transoms and the same U shape OLA had. I could only imagine if my niece was at school and this happened. She's only 7. Bothers me to think of sometime. At least that school is one story. So, hopefully everyone would be able to get out.
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  35. #135
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alanwench View Post
    Attachment 42808 The diminuitive Sister Seraphica bravely stayed with her panic-stricken, crying fourth grade students until the end. Survivors recall their classmates crying for their mothers as smoke and flames filled the room. When the ceiling of the second floor collapsed, it occured directly over Room 208. The Sister's badly charred remains were found beneath the rubble. Her body was shielding the remains of Kathleen Carr. A firefighter who saved students until the room reached the temperature for a "flash-over" of fire recalls seeing the burning body of Sister Seraphica. He was haunted by the way her arms seemed to "reach out for help."
    This passage is so poignant and chilling. The children crying for their mothers, the nun's arms seemingly reaching out as she began to burn -- for some reasons, these images really illustrate the horror of that day.

  36. #136
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    Most definitely. Very horrific. Yet, she went out thinking she was giving her life for those children. One hell of a woman. One hell of a nun.
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  37. #137
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    Michele McBride, who died in 2001, could be considered yet another person killed by the fire, since her injuries left her with lifelong health issues that ultimately led to her relatively early death.
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2...ry-window-burn

    She wasn't the only one. Here is at least one more harrowing story. Marie Hartman died in 2011 after a lifetime of health problems due to her burns, caused her to seek a liver transplant, among other treatment.

    http://www.olafire.com/ShowTopic.asp?A=Y

    According to Social Security Death Index on Ancestry.com, there was ONE man who fit the birth/death criteria closely, whose SSN# was assigned in Illinois and died in California, with an ethnic name that could have fit into a Catholic setting. But the SSDI is hardly 100% complete and comprehensive, and without more specific information (such as an obituary) there aren't enough facts to say, this was the guy.

    The story of the alleged arsonist has so many specifics, including the names of all the doctors and the schools... Evidently he was disturbed practically from his conception, the result of a rape.
    http://www.olafire.com/Confession.asp

    Maybe checking a 1950s Cicero city directory for the address (which were still used in many places until the 1960s alongside of phone directories) might help?
    Last edited by Linnie; 07-23-2012 at 01:15 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Linnie View Post

    The story of the alleged arsonist has so many specifics, including the names of all the doctors and the schools... Evidently he was disturbed practically from his conception, the result of a rape.
    http://www.olafire.com/Confession.asp

    Maybe checking a 1950s Cicero city directory for the address (which were still used in many places until the 1960s alongside of phone directories) might help?
    Yes Linnie, I am working on something. The place he lived is still there. I have a friend in Chicago helping
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    Lisa! I'm hoping you can find out who this creep was.
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddmanning View Post
    Lisa! I'm hoping you can find out who this creep was.
    Me too
    Winners are losers...who got up and gave it one more try ~ Dennis Deyoung

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    Bless my dad's everloving heart, he got ahold of my wishlist on Amazon, so I am getting the book about this, The fire that would not die by Michele McBride and Remembrances of The Angels by John Kuenster and To sleep with the angels. horrible Tragedy, Has really peaked my interest, Will have to go back through and read the whole tread. He also just informed me he got the book Suriving the Ashes, by Gina, the one who survived the Station Nightclub fire, and the book about the Fire at the Chicago Theater and the fire at the Barnum and bailey circus and the Triangle factory.
    Last edited by pkstracy; 07-23-2012 at 02:17 PM.
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  42. #142
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    I have Michele McBride's book on special order for me from the local library. Don't know long it'll take before they have it for me. But, I really cannot wait to read it.
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  43. #143
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddmanning View Post
    I have Michele McBride's book on special order for me from the local library. Don't know long it'll take before they have it for me. But, I really cannot wait to read it.
    My library didn't have it nor did any other nearby. My God I have spent hours reading the OLA website, horrible horrible. yet it holds such a fascination for me. OKay dang it now i am hooked on Fire Stories.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
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    Boo! That sucks about your library and the other ones not having it.

    I hope I hope I don't run into the same problem. But, I probably won't. They got the Three's Company book I wanted from Westerville, Ohio's library. I live in Central KY. That's kind of insane yet awesome that they did that.

    If it wasn't a library book. Or, if I could find a way to buy it. I'd try to mail it to others...Kind of pass it around until it got back to me. I think everyone needs to read Michele's account of the fire.
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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
    It wouldn't surprise me if it were haunted with all the death, anguish, and such.
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    Maybe if I ever live out my dream of moving to Chicago. I'll visit the building and see if it's haunted. I pick up stuff easy. I'd say it probably is.

    But, until then. Any Chicago peeps wanna go and see?
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    I used to drive through Chicago all the time, when I would travel, I never knew about this until well today. I wish I had known about it then as I would have driven there taken pictures and looked around.
    Last edited by pkstracy; 07-24-2012 at 10:49 AM. Reason: Post got cut off when I posted it yesterday had to add what I was going to say .
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  48. #148
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddmanning View Post
    Boo! That sucks about your library and the other ones not having it.

    I hope I hope I don't run into the same problem. But, I probably won't. They got the Three's Company book I wanted from Westerville, Ohio's library. I live in Central KY. That's kind of insane yet awesome that they did that.

    If it wasn't a library book. Or, if I could find a way to buy it. I'd try to mail it to others...Kind of pass it around until it got back to me. I think everyone needs to read Michele's account of the fire.
    Wish her book was available on Kindle like the other two are. Would love to read her story.

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    If I could get a promise that it would be returned to me I would pass it around, I have lent out so many of my books and movies and they never got back to me, this was from close friends, but yeah when I get it and read it if anyone wants to read it and promises to send it back I'll pass it on.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer. #METOO

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    Thanks, racingfan. Although my career will be in medical records, I'm still a trained feature writing journalist at heart. My information came from a radio interview with former Chicago Fire Department firefighter Joe Murray, the OLA website and both books by Kuenster and Cowan. Many surviving students recall their classmates (grades 4-7) crying for their mothers.
    "What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's really all about?" Jimmy Buffett

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