I'm stunned to learn that it has been 50 years since the terrible fire at Our Lady of the Angels. It was the first non-local news event that made an impression on me.
I was 7 1/2 years old and in third grade in a small town outside Milwaukee. I will never forget the picture that ran on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal, showing smoke streaming from the school building, or the stories of children jumping from windows to escape, some of them trailing fire as they fell.
I don't honestly remember if the fire was talked about at my school (part of which was an old building with wooden floors and stairways, like OLA). But it affected me very strongly on a personal level, young though I was. It was the first time I had realized that children my age could die.
It occurs to me now that my mother must have been newly pregnant with my youngest brothers at the time. She must surely have had one of those "what kind of a world am I bringing a child into?" moments. I wish I could ask her about it, but she died 2 years ago at 87.
I have found reading the personal contributions on this Web site very touching, especially the postings by relatives, friends, and neighbors of the children who died. When nieces and nephews, not born yet in 1958, write to say "I never knew my aunt/uncle but have heard the story all my life" or "My grandmother kept a picture of ___ close to her until the day she died" -- it conveys the "ripple effect" forward through the generations. When a hole is torn in the fabric of a family, the mark carries through all subsequent weaving.
It is obvious that there is much healing yet to do. Thank you for providing this forum for survivors to express themselves and to find each other. One never "gets over" such a tragedy, but perhaps there is a crumb of comfort, after all these years, in the connections made here, and in knowing that so many others remember, too, the day that their loved ones died.