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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)
Priests Try Vainly To Comfort Bereaved Relatives And Parents
CHICAGO, Dec. 3 - (AP) - The acrid stench of burned bodies and clothing hung heavily over the morgue at the Cook County Hospital today.
Inside, scores of priests and hospital attendants tried to comfort bereaved relatives still trying to identify the bodies of schoolchildren who died at Monday's fire at Our Lady of the Angels Roman Catholic School.
Ninety sheet-covered bodies lay on stretchers in three rooms of the morgue basement. Some had been identified within hours after the fire.
Some fire-blackened bodies contorted in agony may never be identified.
Among white-clad nurses and morgue attendants could be seen the frocked figures of priests. Here was one, his arm around the shoulder of the weeping woman, trying to console her.
“It was the will of God,” was heard in a low whisper from the priest. “Your daughter is an angel in heaven.”
The woman wept unrestrainedly.
Woman Collapses
From the other side of the room came a shriek. A woman collapsed and immediately attendants ringed her, eased her into a chair and administered smelling salts.
Nearby stood a couple in their 30s. Pale, dry of tears, they fingered a rosary, their lips moving wordlessly. The man had said earlier his daughter was not reported in any of the half-dozen hospitals to which many of the children had been taken. The couple came to the morgue, but had not looked at any of the unidentified children. They were praying she still might have only been injured, perhaps still in a hospital through some mixup in names.
Hovering among the parishioners was Father Joseph Oginibene. This 32-year old priest, a native Chicagoan, came to Our Lady as the parish was know, in 1952. It was his first assignment after ordination.
Tells of Fire
He was “Father Joe” to everyone.
It was his daily routine to walk about the schoolyard and near the entrances during recess, the noon lunch period and as the children left the building at 3 p.m.
Monday, Father Ognibene met an old friend for lunch. They dallied at the table. Then he noticed it would soon be time for his young parishioners to leave school for home.
“I was hurrying to the school in my car,” he said. “I saw smoke coming from the upper windows and drove my car the wrong way up a one-way street. I parked the car and ran into the building.
“Some children were leaving the building in an orderly fire-drill manner. Others were running about, screaming. Then everything was ablaze.
“I tried I wanted to It was the will of God.”
When the first bodies began arriving at the morgue, Father Joe was asked to make tentative identification. He knew the greatest force of the fire was concentrated in the section housing Rooms 207, 208, 209, 211 and 212.
Not Sure of Identification
Scores of these children he knew by name. All were his friends.
Yet, when he had to identify them by name, or grade, he could only whisper: “I'm not sure of this little one I think this one was in 209 This boy was I'm not sure.”
He pressed a thin, shaking hand to his temple. For a moment, it appeared that he might collapse. An attendant slipped a bottle of salts to the priest's nostrils and he straightened up, backing away from the pungent odor.
Then he walked among the bereaved relatives. He stopped, talked with a weeping father.
“It was the will of God, Stanley. Your daughter is now an angel in heaven.”