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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)
Smoldering School Ruins Like A Cavern Of Death
In the drenched and smoldering ruins of Our Lady of the Angels parochial school, it is almost impossible to feel disaster.
The rooms and halls where nearly fivescore died Monday suggest a subterranean cavern. Blackened plaster boards dangle from ceilings like stalactites, dripping water. Black-faced firemen poke through classroom rubble like archeologists — only not so gingerly.
They don't have to be so careful—the bodies they seek are dead four hours, not 4, 000 years.
Fireman's Question
Then the spell breaks. A fireman carrying a pickax says:
“Hey, reporter, you got any dry cigarets?”
The answer is no.
“Well, then can you tell me how many are dead?”
The answer stuns him.
He points to a mound of debris in the second-floor classroom, caused by the cave-in of a section of roof.
“There may be more in there,” he says.
Charred and soaked school-books, plaster and cinders are ankle-deep on the floor. A copy of Charlotte Bronte's “Jane Eyre” has covers singed off.
Then there is an eighth-grade spelling book. Among the words its owner spelled right were “skeleton,” “ambulance,” “safety,” “sadistic.”
And neatly handwritten is the sentence:
“What is the definition of 'fiery'?”
One girl wrote the sentence before she died.
In another second-floor classroom, geography books left on the desk tops remain open.
Pictures In Wallet
On the desk of Annette La Mantia, 10, of 840 W. Springfield, is a wallet. It contains a picture of a boy friend and a little brother.
She'll never see them again. She was one of the victims.
In the second-floor halls, bone-weary firemen work mechanically. There are none of the customary wisecracks and at least one of them is praying that his child is not in the County Morgue.
Illuminated by the powerful fire department hand torches, the death rooms cease to look like caves. Instead, the specter of a gaunt architectural skeleton has been created.
The building's flesh—the lath and plaster ceilings, the linoleum floors, the plastered walls—has been picked off by the fire. What remains is wooden balloon frame construction resembling blackened ribs. Wire - bearing metal conduits are the arteries.
Statue Almost Unharmed
A statue of Jesus stands on a pedestal, almost untouched by falling timbers. Its gilt is black and an ear is missing.
A porcelain flowerpot is in the form of a Virgin Mary figure. The virgin smiles. The plant inside droops over the side, grotesquely scorched.
A first-floor classroom wall bears the slogan:
“Holy Communion is the shortest and surest way to heaven.”
A book jacket says:
“Are you listening? Maybe God is calling you.”
And out in the halls are rows and rows of little coats and hats.