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

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This photo was taken from room 210, looking into room 208 where investigators stand under the collapsed roof. Firemen knocked this hole in the wall between classrooms during their frantic efforts to get to the children trapped in these classrooms. (Life Magazine Photo)
Investigators inspect the ruins of room 208, where the roof collapsed before everyone could escape. Behind the brick wall is the northeast stairwell where the fire started. (Life Magazine Photo)
Investigators step just inside room 209 from the central corridor. The roof collapsed into this classroom after every child but one had escaped. Beverly Burda was apparently disoriented or overcome by smoke, and unable to escape along with her classmates.
This is room 209, where only one child was unable to escape before fire consumed the room and the roof collapsed. The central corridor is behind the wall at left, and the narrow corridor between the north wing and the annex is beyond the far wall. With the roof gone, the chimney from the basement boiler can be seen in the background.
This is room 209 looking west underneath the collapsed roof. The windows are just out of view on the left. Note the teacher's desk at the front of the classroom, with her chair precariously balanced just in front of it on a pile of debris. (Life Magazine Photo)
This is room 209 on the corridor side of the room, looking west toward the front of the classroom. The roof collapsed from the window side, as can be seen here. (Life Magazine Photo)
This is room 210, looking at a pile of charred desks that were moved out of the way during the recovery of bodies. The hole that firemen punched in the wall from room 212 next door can be seen just beyond the debris. This was a fourth grade classroom, where the youngest and smallest victims of the fire perished. (Life Magazine Photo)
This is looking southeast across room 211, toward the windows overlooking the courtyard. While the roof did not collapse in this room, as it did in rooms 208 and 209, the death toll was nevertheless very high, largely due to the sheer number of students (nearly 60) jammed into the room. (Life Magazine Photo)
Firemen dig through the rubble in room 211 on the evening of the fire. This room overlooks the small courtyard between the north and south wings of the school. Twenty-four children died in this room just hours before this picture was taken. This classroom was the only one in which many students died but the teacher did not.
The chaos that occurred in room 211 as students scrambled for the windows is evident in the overturned desks. Through the windows, classrooms of the south wing can be seen. (Photo courtesy of The Catholic New World with photo research by Renee Jackson)
At around 3:00 p.m., a large portion of the roof over the north wing collapsed, crashing down on the students remaining in the north wing classrooms. The shock wave and blast of superheated smoke and gases that surged through the second floor effectively ensured that no student or teacher remaining would be leave the fire-ravaged north wing alive. Here in room 209, only one student remained and perished when the roof caved it, thanks to a porch cover below a corner window, and to the efforts of Father Ognibene and parent Sam Tortorice who helped students escape that same corner window.
The electric wall clock in room 208 is on the floor, stopped, as it bears mute witness to the time fire burst into the room: approximately 2:45 pm.
An abandoned shoe lies among the ashes and rubble in room 208.
Books, book bags, notebooks and other classroom items lie among the rubble in room 208 where the destruction was severe, though not as severe as in room 210.
Room 210, the center classroom on the north side, was hardest hit by the fire. This was mainly because two boys in this room opened the rear door (seen at left) when they realized there was a fire. But the smoke and intense heat that hit them as they opened the door blew them back into the room and neither they nor anyone else in the room was able to get to the door to close it again. Thus, fire was free to quickly enter this room through the opened door. Other classrooms had a few minutes longer because their doors remained closed, and fire therefore entered more slowly via the transoms above the doors and from the cockloft above the ceiling.
Very little remained in room 210, scene of the most deaths and worst fire destruction. Only a few bodies removed from this room were unburned, those found underneath the piles of bodies at the windows. Many of the bodies in this room were burned beyond recognition.
Not much of what remained was recognizable in classrooms 208 and 210. The wood portion of the desks was largely consumed, leaving only a jumble of twisted metal frames.
Inside room 212 where actual fire damage was minimal compare to the other rooms, but where 28 children died nonetheless, mostly due to asphyxiation from the deadly superheated gases and smoke.
Officials examine room 212, where desks are still lined up, books and papers where they were before the fire. Most students who died here were asphyxiated, not burned.
Inside room 212 the desks are still lined up, many with books and papers still in place. Little in this scene would suggest the horror firemen found when they first entered this room: the bodies of 28 children and one nun.
A police officer looks out one of the windows where many children jumped to save their lives from the holocaust in room 208. Note the collapsed roof, an indication the fire burned the longest in and above this classroom. Room 208 was immediately adjacent to the stairwell where the fire began in the basement and traveled to the second floor. (Photo courtesy of The Catholic New World with photo research by Renee Jackson)
In room 211, where 24 children perished, the desks are still relatively orderly on the side of the room opposite the windows. (Photo courtesy of The Catholic New World with photo research by Renee Jackson)
A pile of charred desks and other debris in room 210 where firemen tossed them as they searched the room for bodies. (Photo courtesy of The Catholic New World with photo research by Renee Jackson)
In room 208 the roof eventually collapsed, dooming the students and nun who had not yet managed to escape.
The roof collapsed in room 209, leaving a gaping hole to the sky. Amazingly, every student but one escaped this classroom, largely due to the rescue efforts of Father Ognibene and parent Sam Tortorice.
Numerous fourth graders here in room 210 perished beneath these windows, being unable to pull themselves up over the 37 1/2 inch sills or unwilling to jump 25 feet to the concrete below. Some who did manage to leap from these windows did not survive the fall.
The desks in room 211, as in most classrooms at OLA, were packed wall to wall. In the mad scramble to reach the windows, desks were thrown about and overturned by panicked eighth graders.
Fire damage was minimal in room 212, yet the death toll in this classroom was high due to suffocating smoke and deadly fire gases.
Members of the Coroner's Blue Ribbon Jury visit the site during their investigation of the school fire in the days following the disaster. Fresh snow has fallen into room 211 through a hole in the roof chopped by firemen attempting to vent heat and smoke from the school during the height of the fire.