I have found my life intersecting with this horrible event throughout the years. My great-aunt was a surgical nurse at St. Anne's when the fire occured. I knew many of the doctors on staff at St. Anne's. My cousin is a BVM nun who personally knew the three nuns that perished. My husband's aunt lost her nephew Joseph Maffiola in the fire.
My mother had a terrible fear of fire, having been through one herself. She also had a fascination with it. As a child, I remember that if the sirens were close, we had to find out where they were going, and if it was close enough, we stayed to watch the firefighters put out the fire. She spoke often of the Our Lady of the Angels fire, of my aunt's heartbreaking stories of the cases she assisted with that day in surgery, the terribly burned children. I don't think my aunt ever got over it.
My mother passed this fascination and fear of fire along to me. I wanted desperately to become a firefighter or a paramedic, but knew that there was no chance that I'd pass the physical. Instead, I decided that I would learn as much as I could about being prepared for any kind of disaster, and that I would always be one that could be relied upon in the event of an emergency.
I had my life changing experience on 2/4/77, when the Lake St. "L" train that I was a passenger on crashed into the back of another train and fell to the ground at Lake and Wabash. Eleven people died, including the man I was seated next to. The fact that I was aware of my surroundings and knew that we were going to crash was probably the only thing that saved my life. I was injured badly enough to miss six weeks of work, and to have nightmares that led me to two years of psychological counseling.
After reading both "The Fire That Will Not Die" and "To Sleep With the Angels", I was led to this website, which I'm certain has been catharsis for those who have posted their stories. Reading the books, and the stories posted on these pages makes me relive the memories of the sirens, the chaos, the terror. If you've been through it, I'm sure that you know what I mean.
Ironically enough, in reading some of the stories posted here, I ran across one from Julie Seagraves, who I graduated from High School with. I never knew her story then, but I can testify to her fear of being trapped in a high rise fire. I work in a high rise myself, and I am a floor fire representative. Julie, if your building management doesn't have safety protocol team in place, they're in major violation of the revised City of Chicago Building Codes. Since the 69 West Washington fire, and more recently the LaSalle Bank fire, high rise building management companies have been required to put together comprenhensive fire evacuation plans, and to have drills regularly.
Any of you who work in high rises that haven't been through a fire drill, or haven't seen a evacuation plan, etc., get in touch with your building management, and if you get no satisfactory answer, call your local Fire Department and report it! Being proactive rather than reactive may save your life. Many of the stories on these pages are proof of that very fact, as my own experience has shown.
May God give His gift of strength, peace and closure to all victims of tragedy.