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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)
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)
Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll
CHICAGO, Dec. 1 (UPI) - Panic aided the flames at Our Lady of the Angels School today. While some children recalled the disciplines of fire drills to make their way to safety, others perished in their confusion.
Some pupils jumped from windows; others were pushed. Still others were trampled as they groped for exits. The smaller ones huddled in confusion in corridors. Efforts to get some to move were of little avail.
In a few classrooms teachers were able to maintain control.
Mrs. Eda Shanahan, one of the nine lay teachers, talked soothingly to her pupils, urging them to wait for firemen and ladders at the open windows of her second floor room.
Pupils Descend by Ladder
Meanwhile the Rev. Charles Hunt, (sic) assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Church, and James Raymond, a janitor of the school, managed to get a fire ladder in place on the building outside Mrs. Shanahan's room. Her charges reached the ground safely.
Another teacher told how she had persuaded pupils to form a human chain by clutching each other's clothing and leading them to safety.
A nun who made three trips into the burning building to rescue children said:
“I felt untold strength.”
One teacher, who was not identified, told of leading her charges to the head of a stairway and rolling them down to safety when fright immobilized them.
Sam Tortorice, the father of a pupil, rushed from his nearby home. Plunging through the smoke, he ran to his daughter's second-floor classroom. One by one he managed to swing six children in the arms of another man leaning from a window on an adjacent wall of an inside ell of the building. Before being driven from the window himself, he managed to pass the sixth child, his daughter.
“I just knew where my daughter should be,” he said.
What happened?
Joseph Brocato, an 11-year-old pupil who was taken to a hospital, told his father.
“I was carrying a wastebasket to the boiler room. I saw the janitor running from the boiler room. He shouted, 'Call the Fire Department.' I heard an explosion and there where flames. My classmate and I ran upstairs and we were told by one of the nuns to go to the church. A lot of children were in the church. We were then told to go home.”
Mr. Raymond, the school's chief janitor, said that he had been across the street from the school when he saw smoke billowing from the building. He rushed to the school. His attempts to swing a fire escape from the second floor to the ground failed. He broke a window on the ground floor and was cut by flying glass. Then the fire escape suddenly plunged down and struck him on the head. He was treated at a hospital.
“I Smell Smoke”
Few children were able to provide coherent accounts of what had happened. Mary Brock, 10, said someone told her, “I smell smoke.”
“When the door was opened a gust of smoke blew in,” she said. “Sister Mary Clara (sic) Therese said, 'Get out of the window, get on the ledge and stay there.' I got out the window and stood on the ledge. Lots of others jumped.”
Mary was rescued by firemen. Her companions who left the ledge were found on the pavement below by the first firemen who arrived.
Among those who survived the plunge to the paved yard from a first (sic) floor window was Linda Barleto, 12.
“Our backs were burning, then someone pushed me,” Linda said.
Linda was taken to a hospital suffering from burns and bruises, but her condition was reported as good.
Her cousin, Andrea Gagliareo (sic), also 12, told of opening a classroom window and screaming for help.
“Some of the boys jumped out of the window,” she said. “When we looked down we saw them lying still on the ground. We stayed and the firemen saved us.”
Across the street from the school Leroy Hewlett, 31, heard the screams.
“Kids were hanging from windows, jumping or falling in groups of three and four at at time,” he said. “Smoke and flames poured from the windows.”
As fire engines and police cars converged on the scene parents rushed to the school. In the chill wind they strained against police lines and sought to enter the building.
Mrs. Pauline Baroni clutched a small red, quilted jacket brought from home to warm her daughter, Karen, 10.
“But I can't find. I can't find her,” Mrs. Baroni cried to her friend, Mrs. Mary Sansone. Mrs. Sansone could offer little comfort. She had not been able to find her son, James, 12.