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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)
Texas School Tragedy Of 294 Dead Recalled
The death in a Chicago school fire Monday of 90 persons sent horrified memory racing back 21 years to New London, Texas, an oil field town in the piney woods and sandy hills of East Texas.
The world's worst school tragedy occurred there March 18, 1937, killing 294 children and teachers. Gas had collected in a sub-basement and it apparently was ignited by a spark from the switch of a sanding machine in the manual training room located by the side of a door into the sub-basement.
It was all over in seconds. There was no fire. Three-quarters, of the building-only a corner was left standing-went straight up.
The building, reduced to concrete slabs, steel beams and debris, collapsed. It crushed the children who had no chance to seek escape. Only three bodies suffered burns, indicating the collapsing building snuffed out the flames.
As the second newspaperman on the scene, after speeding from a town 18 miles away, I came upon a scene of almost complete silence. There was some whispering from those who were injured but the injured were very few. Most of the children of junior and senior high school age were either killed outright or escaped with bruises.
By the time I got there, the narrow roads were crowded with ambulances front 15 neighboring towns and by heavy earth-moving equipment bulldozers and cranes to lift the building off the crushed bodies There was to have been a PTA meeting that afternoon and mothers had begun to drive or walk towards the building in bright spring sunshine.
Many saw the building which was a modern school, erected with oil money some from six wells on the school grounds, disintegrate before their eyes.
They ran toward the building and the appalling silence. As bodies were brought from the debris, they were lined up along side an athletic field fence uncovered and in the grotesque positions of the recently dead.
One turned his face away and looked up to the steelwork of what remained of one comer of the third floor. Men supported in the bucket of a crane were at work, trying to pry loose the body of a blond teen-age girl, a body which had been impaled on torn, jagged steel.
This was not an old school. It had been completed less than two years before. It was strong and fireproof. But it was heated by wild gas, unmetered cheap and varying in pressure as it came from the wells.
Apparently there was a gas leak in the connections under the building and the gas had collected there.
The bodies were taken to makeshift morgues and the injured to hospitals in a dozen towns round about.
In red sand cemeteries all over the area are graves whose headstones all bear the same date and birth dates indicating how brief can be the span of life. In the memories of many remains the example, the worst in history, of the senselessness of fate and the remorseless tragedy which can come from carelessness.