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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)
Terror, Torment Related by School Fire Victims
CHICAGO, Dec. 13 - This is the story - the children's story-of the terror and confusion and heroics in the burning classrooms of Our Lady of the Angels School.
Unlike most stories, it does not have a happy ending. It concludes with 89 children and three nuns dead and many others still in hospitals with painful burns and injuries.
This is the injured children's story.
A reporter and photographer for THE CHICAGO AMERICAN visited Franklin Boulevard Hospital.
The youngsters lying in clean, white beds manage to smile despite their agony from the searing burns. Scars they will bear for the rest of their lives will be reminders of the tragedy. Others have broken bones and bruises received when they jumped from second floor windows.
Memories Haunt Them
For the dead it is over. For the injured and for parents of the dead, the horror of the holocaust lives on.
It lives on for Diane Traynor, 9, of 956 N. Springfield av. She lies on her stomach, a huge drum protecting her badly burned back, legs and arms from contact with the bed covers. Skin grafting probably will be needed because of second and third degree burns.
She said haltingly: “We suddenly saw smoke and everyone got excited. Sister Mary Seraphica (one of the nuns who perished) told us not to be frightened and to pray. But everybody was scared. The room got filled with smoke and I felt like I was burning all over. Everyone was pushing toward the windows. I can't remember how I got out. It was so dark in the room.”
Asked what she would like most, the diminutive girl replied.
“To go home and back to school.”
Sharing the room with Diane, Theresa DePalma, 10, of 1006 N. Lawndale av., sits up in bed. She can't use either of her badly burned hands. A fifth grader, she was in room 212, in which many children perished.
'Started Praying'
She said:
“We were studying geography when we saw smoke coming through cracks in the door. Sister Mary Clare Therese_(she also died in the fire) opened the door and then shut it when the smoke came in real fast. Everyone was running and pushing toward the window then. I started praying.
“A fireman helped me down a ladder and I sat down on the ground. Someone put a blanket on me. My brother Don, who's 13, was looking for me. When he found me, he took me to an ambulance. I was really glad to see him.
“I never did find my best girlfriend, Pat, who sat near me. The room was so full of smoke and everyone was choking. You couldn't see anything or hardly breathe. I think Pat died.” (Patricia Kpzma, 10, of 847 N. Hamlin av., was one of the children who perished.) John Uting, 10, of 3225 W. Division St., forces a smile. She is one of Theresa's classmates. She said: “The sister tried to open the door, but there was too much hot smoke. 1 tried to run over and help her, but it was so hot I thought was burning up.”
Still a Nightmare
The fire seems like a nightmare to James Krajewski, 12, of 946 N. Avers av. He suffered fractures of both legs a spine injury when he jumped out of a second floor window. He keeps asking himself why he didn't wait for firemen instead of jumping. He said:
“The door started to shake and rattle and when the sister opened it smoke poured in. Everyone was yelling. Another boy and I ran to the window and opened it. Everyone was pushing and it got real hot. Then I jumped. I think I was knocked out for a while. I still don't remember deciding to jump.” His hospital roommate, Frank Consiglio, 10, of 376 N. Hamlin blvd., is amazed he's still alive. He described how black, hot smoke got so thick that he fainted. How long he was out or why he woke, he doesn't know. He recalled.
“When I woke up, the room was real hot and almost everyone was gone. I stayed close to the floor so I could breathe and made my way to the window. A fireman helped me out.” Detectives have been questioning the children in the hospitals about smoking in the school.
Cigarets Seen
Several pupils told a reporter they hadn't seen any schoolmates smoking in the school, but had seen them with cigarets after clas.
They couldn't identify any of them.
This was the children's story. Many of them will return to their homes shortly. For others there are weeks of hospitalization and painful skin grafts.