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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958

Personal Experiences with Our Lady of the Angels School Fire

If you have a personal experience, recollection or opinion about the December 1, 1958 Our Lady of the Angels school fire, whether you were present at the fire or not, you can relate it here. Any story or information is welcome as long as it relates to Our Lady of the Angels school fire.
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Posted by: Brrendan On: 1/31/2021 ID: 695
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No After n/a
I apologize for previously posting on this board, having no connection to event.


Posted by: Bigbendan@hotmail.com On: 1/29/2021 ID: 694
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No After n/a
Learned of fire while searching YouTube for film of OLA in Bronx, which I attended beginning 1970. I'm surprised I have no memory of hearing of this awful tragedy, until now. Our school building replaced the original stone structure a few years after your fire.
I'm sorry for loss suffered and pain endured by survivors. I survived a fire 4 years ago, which was due to my own carelessness. No one else was hurt. I had some 2nd and 3rd, but managed to hold my breath. It seemed I wouldn't get out. I was thrown from a vehicle 33 years ago, but that wasn't as terrifying as the fire.
I read of the suspected arsonist's confession. That could have been me - compulsive masturbator and arsonist starting at 10 or 11 (puberty comes early in city kids). Finding girly magazines in building paper bundles didn't help. I alerted a building super to trash can fire I started. Told him I was passing by. Alcoholism, drugs, and trouble within a couple of years.


Posted by: Patricia Mikosh Feager On: 9/17/2020 ID: 693
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Winchester Ave bounded between Augusta, Damen, and Chicago Avenue
I was six years old at the time and attended St. Helen's School located at Augusta and Western. I remember sitting on the floor at home watching TV because I stayed home sick. I watched it on TV from the beginning when the news was reported. I relived those images I saw over, and over, and over again. I don't even remember the day I stopped crying. I don't remember my mother hugging me or telling me she loved me. Vicariously, I was living through the tragedy and wishing those children were told by their parents how much they were loved. To this day, I have memories of the children and what was being filmed on TV. I truly wish no child had to see or experience tragedy. The emotional scars are permanent. All adults need to be responsible, accountable, loving, and kind to children. Adults have to be the protectors and take safety seriously whether it's teaching, building a building, providing janitorial services, or just being a parent.


Posted by: Peter MInerva On: 7/15/2020 ID: 692
Enrolled on 12/1/58? Present on 12/1/58? Injured? Age Grade Classroom Teacher
Yes Yes No 7 2 Miss Kathleen
December 1st 1958 will always be remembered. I was 7 and in 2nd grade. Our classroom was on the 1st floor and near the front entrance. Everyone in my class survived but we lost many friends and my classmates lost family members. I have three vivid memories of that fateful day. 1.We were forced to leave the building without our coats. Our teachers were concerned for our safety especially with the hallways filling with smoke. We went to our fire drill locations and waited. We were then brought into the Church where we were ultimately dismissed. We then ran home (5 blocks away). 2. I remember as it was yesterday, that we saw the first fire trucks show up. I remember it because all us kids waiting outside gave a huge cheer we they arrived. We had no idea, at that time, how serious it was. 3. My most vivid memory was that of my Dad. After he rushed home from work, he then rushed back out of the house to the school. He took some blankets with him in case they were needed either by the children or the firefighters. When he came home, he sat with my Mom and he broke down in tears. It wasn't until later that I found out that he had witnessed the firefighters carrying the deceased children out of the school and placing them in a designated holding area. My Dad was a strong man who never cried but this time it was different. When I saw this raw emotion, I then realized the severity of the situation. I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. Every year on December 1st, I grieve with the families that lost love ones that day.


Posted by: Laurie On: 7/13/2020 ID: 691
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No After n/a
I was either in First or Second grade at Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Trenton NJ. We had an assembly and were shown a movie about a horrible school fire. I cannot recall if we were told the school's name but I remember feeling scared and very sad for the kids who were burned and died. This memory stuck with me all these years and I have been reading all the books about it. I'm 57 now, much younger than those kids would've been. As a former Catholic school student and now a parent I cannot fathom the suffering and loss endured by all involved. Because of their story I went to safe schools. RIP little angels.


Posted by: R. King On: 12/31/2019 ID: 690
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Detroit
My Dad attended Most Holy Redeemer in Detroit, and said this fire changed his fifth grade year at the school. They started having fire drills and one window in each classroom was painted white, inside and out, so that the firefighters would know where to place their ladders.


Posted by: Linda Steck Kasper On: 12/2/2019 ID: 689
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Addison, IL
I was 6 yrs. old when this happened. I remember I overheard my parents talking about the fire and how upset my grandpa was. I didn't really know why until I was older. My Grandfather was working down the street from the school when the fire broke out. He rushed over to help get the children out of the building. One little girl died in his arms. It stayed with him for the rest of his life. He was one of many that would never forget what they experienced, or lost December 1, 1958.
61 years today, December 1,2019. Rest in Peace


Posted by: Mary Beth LaBanca On: 12/1/2019 ID: 688
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No After n/a
Uuuugggghh!!! Why does this day always remind me of these sweet innocent children? All the wonderful and amazing things they were going to contribute to the world and never got the chance. I wasn't even born yet. Praying for all involved, all who lost their lives and all who were affected by this SENSELESS tragedy. I pray that somehow God will comfort those left behind and to all 95 in heaven, I'm sure they are happy and this is all behind them. It's us left behind that are left to grieve and try to figure out this craziness even after all these years. If only the door on the top floor would have been closed. Just a closed door. If someone somehow would have gotten that disturbed boy some help sooner. And to think he knew he killed all those people, people he knew, and continued to set fires at other places through the years. It boggles my brain to think of the magnitude of his sickness!! How did he live with himself for the rest of his life? Love and prayers to all, God bless everyone involved that day all those years ago.


Posted by: Grizz65 On: 10/8/2019 ID: 687
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before northern suburbs
I lived a mile south of OLA, just south of Garfield Park...Madison and Homan. We lived in the 3400 block of Monroe St. I walked two blocks east to Marshall for kindergarten and most of first grade.

We moved from the neighborhood in March of 1954, when I was still in first grade. My new school was almost just over nine miles due north of OLA, and about a half-mile to the east.

I was a 6th grader on the day of the OLA fire. It was a bright sub-freezing early-winter day. My seven-year-old kid sister was watching "Susan's Show" on WBBM-TV, and she was laughing at "Mister Pegasus, the Talking Table" when the first awful bulletin interrupted the show. It only got worse after that, much worse, for at least another six hours.

The news kept pouring out of the TV and the numbers kept climbing, until the death toll was past ninety. Late that night my father brought home the extra edition of the Daily News. For days, I read the newspaper stories. I was transfixed by the graphic images I saw. I could neither look at the photographs...nor manage not to. I began having nightmares about the fire. I had nightmares for weeks, and,like so many other Baby Boomers of a certain age, have never really forgotten. It has remained with us, and will until we, too, die. As I was the same age as many of the victims and had lived in a nearby neighborhood, I soon realized, to my shock and horror, that if it could happen to them...it could easily happen to me!

My greatest fear has always been of being trapped in a fire. The year before the OLA fire, I had learned about the terrible 1903 Iroquois Theater fire, in Chicago's Loop, that killed over 600, mostly women and children. A couple of years later, when I was around 13, I began devouring all the library books I could find about famous fires and deadly fire disasters. After a couple of years of that, I couldn't take it anymore, and got into reading other things, like history and sports.

For many years I was absolutely certain that I was the only one who became terrified about being in a fire because of OLA, and that there must be something wrong with me. But now, thanks to this website and others like it, I finally realize that I am far from alone. Many people my age, and especially Chicagoans who were of school-age that day, felt as I did. And we still remember how we felt. True, there are millions our age who don't, but thousands do...and hundreds of them, from all over the country, have expressed their feelings here.

My first dentist, as a kid, was Dr. Dorothy Rizzo, DDS...she was very unusual for the Fifties. Few dentists were female and Italian back then. And she was also unique for specialized in treating youngsters. Her office was above the old Alamo Theater, on Chicago Avenue, a few blocks from OLA. I later heard stories about how the authorities called upon her and made use of her dental records. I don't even know if this is true or not. But just thinking about it bothers me, and has haunted me for many years.

In 1992 I left Chicago, married my former college sweetheart, and moved to Cleveland. She attended Catholic school there, through fifth grade, but was in public school in 1958. She has no clear memories of the OLA fire. I have tried many times to get her to understand just what it was like to be a traumatized grammar-school kid in Chicago in December of 1958, and what an awful Christmas it was, but some things are just beyond words.

Whenever I hear the songs that were on the radio then..."Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"...the "Chipmunks' Christmas Song"...and especially "The Little Drummer Boy"...I remember...and I recall how awful those days were.

Ironically, I now live close to another old Catholic school, here in Cleveland, that is named Our Lady of the Angels. And of course, whenever I pass it, a chill goes through my blood that the natives will never, ever even begin to understand. They weren't eleven years old and living in Chicago on that terrible day. Some things, you just can't explain.

Godspeed to all who were there.

Grizz65
>


Posted by: Mike Holoka On: 8/7/2019 ID: 686
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No Before Detroit
I was 8 years old and remember the fire vividly in the news. The nuns at St Agnes in Detroit told us about the fire. 90 plus dead and three nuns a horrible unthinkable tragedy. My mom just cried all night when this happened. Well as it turns out we moved to Chicago and I attended OLA in 1960 as a fifth grader. I realized it was the same school that had burned down. I think it just opened in 1960. Very nice structure and no one messed around during fire drills!Some in our class had lost relatives in the fire. Rarely talked about it but occasionally details would come out. Not many families were not touched as this was a very close mainly Italian parish. My heart still aches when I think about the tragedy that occurred. I went to school with the lady that started this page.