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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)
Schoolboy Smoking Cigaret Might Have Touched Off Fire
CHICAGO, Dec 2 - (UPI) - A schoolboy who sneaked a forbidden cigaret may be the unwitting arsonist who touched off the fire which killed 87 children and three nuns at Our Lady of the Angels parochial school.
This was the theory Tuesday of Police and Fire Department squads investigating Chicago's worst fire in 55 years, a holocaust which swept the West Side parochial school Monday and shocked the nation and the world.
The horror and pathos of the fire mounted as Chicago became a city in mourning. There were these developments.
Five of the 100 children injured, 82 of them still hospitalized, were not expected to live.
3 Unidentified
The possibility arose that the death count might really be 91. Only three pitifully charred bodies remained unidentified at the at the county morgue, awaiting X-rays and an attempt to give them names. But four of the school's children were missing. Police hoped the extra missing child had wandered from the school in a state of shock and was being cared for by someone living in the neighborhood.
The Chicago Archdiocese announced that Archbishop Albert George Meyer will preside at mass funeral services for the 87 dead children in a National Guard armory Friday. The church will bury the 53 girls and 34 boys, aged 9 to 15, together in the Holy Innocents section of the Queen of Heaven Cemetery if their parents wish.
Mayor Richard J. Daley ordered all flags drawn to half mast on city buildings until the funerals. Appeals went out for donations of money and blood, although so many blood donors volunteered some had to be turned away. A citywide day of mourning was to be declared.
Scenes of heartbreak and grief continued in scores of homes, empty by or more children, at the morgue, where parents collapsed in hysteria upon identifying their children, and at the Our Lady of the Angels rectory, where the nuns' bodies were brought Tuesday night.
Last Rites Set
A large crowd, many of them nuns who could not restrain their sobs, watched the three black coffins, decorated with small silver crosses, taken into the rectory. An auxiliary bishop conducted services outside the building, where last rites for the nuns will be held Thursday.
Police had all but ruled out the possibility that the fire was deliberately touched off by a deranged arsonist who somehow crept into the school.
But their suspicions mounted that some teenage boy had ducked beneath the stairwell, taken a few puffs on a cigaret, and tossed it into a cardboard container stuffed with discarded examination papers before returning to his classes.
The fire swept up the stairwell of the 2-story school and spread through the second floor. Suffocating black smoke boiled up from the well-waxed corridor floors. Then, it was theorized, a nun smelled smoke, ordered windows opened in a classroom, and provided the murderous draft for the flames. Within minutes, children were leaping from second floor windows or dying of heat or asphyxiation at their desks.
Boys Quizzed
Police Sgt. Drew Brown, head of the arson squad, along with a special police squat of 35 men, began intensive questioning of boys who had been assigned by their teachers to carry wastepaper from classrooms to the trash bins near a stairwell.