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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958
OLA Fire Period News Articles
(These stories have been reproduced as accurately as possible from the original news reports, including original errors)
90 Die In School Fire (12/1/58)
74 Hurt, Blast Traps Scores (12/1/58)
Tough Chicago Police Weep At The Tragic, Tiny Bundles (12/1/58)
Tom Feared Sight Of Death's Mask (12/1/58)
Margaret Was a Little Girl Who Didn't Like to Be Sick (12/1/58)
Joe Wasn't Hurt, He Saw Only Horror (12/1/58)
Sobbing Nun Tells of Horror In School Fire (12/1/58)
Parish Families Seek Children (12/1/58)
Man, 74, Stricken Helping Children (12/1/58)
90 PERISH IN CHICAGO SCHOOL FIRE; 3 NUNS ARE VICTIMS; SCORES HURT; PUPILS LEAP OUT WINDOWS IN PANIC (12/1/58)
F.B.I. Ready to Assist Chicago Fire Inquire (12/1/58)
Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll (12/1/58)
Everybody was Jumping (12/1/58)
List of Identified Dead In Chicago School Fire (12/1/58)
Fire Gong Tolled A Deadly Message (12/1/58)
Frantic Dad Tells Fire Rescue Role (12/1/58)
85 Youngsters Still Hospitalized; Blaze 3rd Worst In 100 Years (12/2/58)
Smoldering School Ruins Like A Cavern Of Death (12/2/58)
87 Children, 3 Nuns Die in School Fire (12/2/58)
Probers of Fire Ask: Why? (12/2/58)
Schoolboy Smoking Cigaret Might Have Touched Off Fire (12/2/58)
One Family's Story (12/2/58)
Throng Just Waits, Looks (12/2/58)
The Morgue (12/2/58)
School Fire Chicago's Worst in 55 Years (12/2/58)
“I'll Remember It to My Dying Day,” Says Fireman (12/2/58)
Chronology Shows Speed of Disaster (12/2/58)
Girl Recalls Burning Backs Of Classmates (12/2/58)
Chicago Presses Search for Clues to Fire At School (12/2/58)
'I Won't Give Up Hope,' Says Father (12/2/58)
Boy Who Jumped Tells of Tragedy (12/2/58)
Pope John Wires Condolences to Bereaved Kin (12/2/58)
Arson Squad to Probe Fire in School Last Year (12/2/58)
“It's Just Too Much,” Laments Archbishop (12/2/58)
Hospitals Work Around Clock to Relieve Injured (12/2/58)
Other School Tragedies (12/2/58)
Moscow Says School Fire No Accident (12/2/58)
Memories of Horror Rack School Janitor (12/2/58)
How Fireman Feels Carrying Out Victims (12/3/58)
Third Worst In Nation (12/3/58)
Priests Try Vainly To Comfort Bereaved Relatives And Parents (12/3/58)
Struggle to Save Fire Survivors Continues (12/3/58)
Gigantic IFs Jolt Probers Digging Into Fire Mystery (12/3/58)
Fire Leads to School Checkups (12/3/58)
Rites Held for Nuns Killed in School Fire (12/4/58)
10,000 Mourners at Funeral Of Three Nuns Killed in Fire (12/4/58)
Mass Offered for 28 Small Victims of Fire (12/5/58)
Fire Victim's Souls Commended to God (12/5/58)
91st Chicago Victim Of School Fire Dies (12/6/58)
500 Children Face Questioning In School Fire (12/6/58)
Bereaved Families Mourn in Chicago (12/7/58)
9-Year-Old Boy Dies, Raises Chicago School Fire Toll to 92 (12/8/58)
Boy Becomes 92d Victim of Chicago Fire (12/8/58)
School Fire Horror Probed (12/11/58)
Chicago School Afire Long Before 1st Alarm (12/11/58)
Terror, Torment Related by School Fire Victims (12/13/58)
Girl Fire Victim, 9, Wonders Why Cards Have Stopped Coming (12/14/58)
Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa...The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible! (12/15/58)
Nightmare in the News (12/15/58)
Disasters - The Chicago School Fire (12/15/58)
How Safe Are The Schools (12/15/58)
Fire Hazards Found At 2 City Schools
Two Schools To Be Closed As Fire Risks
Texas School Tragedy Of 294 Dead Recalled
$50,000? So What?
Erect Fireproof School Building (11/30/59)
City Cleared As Defendant In School Fire (7/19/60)
New School Open (9/60)
Considered prime suspect in Chicago blaze (1/16/1962)
Boy Admits Fire Fatal To 95 (1/16/62)
Judge Rips Lie Tester On Boy's Story Of Fire (1/16/1966)
Cicero Won't Let Police Talk to Youth (1/16/1962)
Lad Cleared in School Fire (3/13/62)
Memories stay forever - Our Lady of Angels fire survivor (11/83)
'Born fireman' wanted to be part of the action (6/1/2003)
“I'll Remember It to My Dying Day,” Says Fireman
By Marty O'Conno.
CHICAGO - Dec. 2, 1958 - Two of the first firemen on the scene at Our Lady of the Angels school fire afterwards had eyes as deep and troubled as those of combat infantrymen.
Richard Duchene and George Harper, Hook and Ladder Company 26, sipped hot coffee less than 30 yards from where the worst ordeal of their lives took place.
Gazing at the school building, lit now by floodlights, gleaming with running streams of water, Duchene said:
“Nobody in the world would believe what went on there less than three hours ago. Merciful God.”
SWUNG AROUND CORNER
Duchene said Hook and Ladder Co. 35 was already on the Iowa street side of the school when his own rig with its five men pulled up. He said:
“We swung around the corner to the Avers avenue side and all we did was run up the 85-foot aerial ladder.
“Civilians went up the ladders to do what they could. The firemen were too busy trying to catch or break the falls of children leaping from the bulding.
“The children were screaming and jumping faster than we could catch them. It was the worst thing I ever saw. Children on the ground everywhere, some with their shoes knocked off in the fall. Everywhere.”
ROLLING IN SLUSH
Fireman Harper agreed. He said:
“I never saw anything like it before and I never want to again. Some of the children were on fire, rolling around in the slush trying to put out the flames and screaming and screaming.
“I'll remember it to my dying day.”
Men of Hook and Ladder Co. 26 were under the command of Lt. Roger Hester.
Also making the run on 26 were firemen Dan Bodner and Robert Thorpe.
BY TRUCKLOAD
Thorpe suffered an eye injury in the furious battle to reach the burning children. Harper and Duchene were active in the removal of dozens of bodies. Duchene said:
“The bodies seemed to be coming out by the truckload and for all I knew they were.
“I don't know which was worst, putting kids in ambulances knowing they would be dead before the vehicle went a block or seeing the little forms trapped in the rear of the building.
“Most of them never had a chance.”
LEGEND SAYS IT
Another fireman who had just hit the coffee wagon joined the group.
He eyed the smoking schoolhouse and a legend chiseled in stone over the doorway. The inscription reads.
“Our Lady of the Angels.”
The fireman said:
“That's the name of this place now, all right now and forever.”