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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958

Personal Experiences with Our Lady of the Angels School Fire

If you have a personal experience, recollection or opinion about the December 1, 1958 Our Lady of the Angels school fire, whether you were present at the fire or not, you can relate it here. Any story or information is welcome as long as it relates to Our Lady of the Angels school fire.
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Posted by: Bonnie Babyak On: 5/14/2017 ID: 668
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Fairview Park (Cleveland) Ohio
I was in second grade at St Angela Merici School. I remember hearing the stories on WGAR radio the next morning as we ate breakfast before going to school. I was mesmerized by such a tragedy and our Mother explained what happened to so many children the same ages as my siblings and me. Others have mentioned having a fire drill the next day at school but I do not remember one. Our school regularly had fire drills and I remember sometimes seeing the fire chief there to observe. He probably did that at all schools in town. The fire dept was only 1/2 block away.

I am so sorry for the families that were affected by this fire. It was a horrible tragedy. So many people remember it and pray for your lost Angels. Also those at the school who were traumatized by it.

Posted by: Karen Carpenter Zigler On: 2/27/2017 ID: 667
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Hamlin Ave across from the school
I went to public school but went to OLA for religion classes every week we walked to the school lived right across from the church and went there on Sunday, made my confirmation there. Had friends that went to the school and lost their lives that day I remember it like it was yesterday I read the book Sleeping with the Angles

Posted by: My name at that time was Gail Watts On: 12/8/2016 ID: 666
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Oak Park, Illinois
I was ten years old, a fifth grader at St. Catherine of Siena grade school, a few miles away from OLA.

Three of the children were buried from our parish, following their funeral Mass, which all of us school children attended.

To this day, I have been unable to reconcile what happened that day. To this day, I have been unable to put my anger to rest because I never got answers to any of my questions. I may have only been ten years old, but this fire and terrible loss of life and horrible injuries never made any sense to me.

Being raised Catholic, I had an even tougher time because we were told cremation was not allowed, but no one could explain to me what would happen when "Jesus returned to earth i the Second Coming" to those who had been burned so badly there was nothing left but ashes.

That is when I began to question and lose my "faith".

Posted by: greg da'goose groeper On: 12/2/2016 ID: 665
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before 622 N. Springfield Ave.
One of those classrooms was where my mother Agnes Groeper (nee Hufnagel) taught. She was a lay teacher there. Had she not been on maternity leave nursing me, born 9 months earlier, she would have been amongst them. She planned to return in January, but the tragedy caused her to set aside her plans and instead became the mother of 9 children.

What is not mentioned in the articles is that a short distance away was a Motorola factory where my dad Cletus Groeper worked. My mom's sister, Aunt Barbara Hickey (later Kania)(nee Hufnagel) heard it on the radio and called him to let him know what was going on. He told management and rallied the factory to assist. He and hundreds of other Motorola men ran to the school and helped catch some of the kids jumping to the ground.

This week is the 58th Anniversary of their departure.

My dad passed in 2005. There is not an anniversary that has gone by where you would not find them/her at the cemeteries, visiting "her kids". I feel lucky to be a part of such a wonderful family and always feel connected to the kids at OLA.

Please say a small prayer for our families and the children lost or physically or emotionally scarred from this event... now in their 60's.

greg groeper

Posted by: Louis t On: 9/29/2016 ID: 664
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Grand and western
We had just gotten home from school Holy rosary (2nd grade) and we went in the back yard to spin tops. we saw and herd many sirens(fire and police) going by. We were only blocks from ola at grand and western ave. So much equipment and we had no idea what had happened until later that afternoon. As years went on i was fortunate to stay in touch with friends who also remember that dreadfull day as if it were yesterday. We never forget one of our first grade classmates who transfered to ola after grade one. The family moved a few blocks west on lawndale ave.

Posted by: Kay On: 8/6/2016 ID: 663
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Franklin, PA
I was in first grade at an 1890s brick school similar to OLA. I remember there was a picture in the paper of the aftermath, with covered bodies of children lined up. It was the first time I realized I could die. My teacher was great. She took time the next day to talk to us about the fire and how it happened, and she explained the fire drill we were going to have that day (Dec. 2) and told us it was not real, just practice, and not to panic. I think she saved my class from a lifetime of trauma over this, and I have always thanked her.

Posted by: Jean On: 5/27/2016 ID: 662
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before West Virginia
I remember watching it on TV with some other members of my family. I was 7 years old at the time. It dramatized me because even though I lived in an entirely different state I knew those were my own kind. We were children. There was a hit song that often played on the radio at that time. It was called 'Smoke gets in your eyes" by the Platters. Whenever I would hear it I would put something over my ears or run out of the room or even out the front door because I would think about that black toxic smoke killing those kids ( my own kind). Even today it brings back sad memories and I still cry because the memory is still so fresh.

Posted by: Bobbi Smith On: 12/1/2015 ID: 661
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Hoffman Estates, IL
My family moved from the city to the suburbs in September, 1958. I remember hearing about the fire on TV. For days after I read everything I could in the newspaper and cried. I was thankful I now went to a one-story school instead of the school in the city which was a brick building like OLA but three stories. This is a tragedy that is forever in my memory. Prayers for those who were there that day.

Posted by: D. Hresko On: 12/1/2015 ID: 660
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Bloomsburg, PA
I want to remember in prayer today, the 57th anniversary of that horrible tragedy. I was in the first grade at St Columba school in Bloomsburg, PA. I remember coming home to do homework and then, we would watch TV before supper. When I was watching, a special report came over the network, and my Mother stopped preparing our food, She
was almost in tears while we watched the tragedy unfold right before
our eyes. I immediately thought about my Teacher, Sister M Pierre and the other Nuns in our school and wondered if they would hold us out the windows and drop us to people below, like on TV. The next day in school, we had a special prayer session for the lost souls, children and Nuns that died in the Fire. I sometimes feel like I am connected to someone or something from then, I think and pray for their souls every so often. That is why I think we should all remember and reflect
on those Angels, especially today... I also remember it was the first day back at school for us after Thanksgiving break, just as it was for them. Thanks for letting me share my feelings. God Bless and be forever with us...

Posted by: mimi On: 7/29/2015 ID: 659
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before 930 N. Hamlin Ave
I lived very near Our Lady of The Angels church and school. I fact I could see the school from my back porch.

I heard the fire engines and saw the smoke from the fire coming out of the school!

Having one niece and nephew in the school I ran to the school trying to find out if they were able to get out of the school. It was chaos and people were trying to help where ever they could.

I saw nuns helping kids jump from windows to people waiting below to catch them.

I had to hurry home cause I left a little son who was about 2 years old with landlord lady (older lady).

After searching, I heard they were taken in by neighbors nearby and we were reunited.

They swallowed a lot of smoke but otherwise were ok. However, they can never forget what happened there. Neither will I.

Such tragedy.

I made my communion and confirmation and was married at Our Lady of the Angels church,