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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.
Click here to add your OLA fire experience.

Posted by: Anthony On: 8/3/2021 ID: 697
Enrolled on 12/1/58? Present on 12/1/58? Injured? Age Grade Classroom Teacher
Yes Yes No 6 1 on hamlin
i was in first grade at the time of the fire. my cousin was in 6th grade at the time we used to meet at the front of the school and she would walk me home. this day when we were let out of school, i rushed to the main building and all....ire trucks hoses and people screaming i was so panicked i was paralyzed. a firefighter grabbed me by the collar and swatted me on the ass. he told me to run home and don't look back i ran as fast as i could without my cousin and i got back to my home on keeler. i remember i could not get the smell of smoke out of my nose. My cousin made it home safely but we never ever discussed what we experienced

Posted by: emilyd On: 7/17/2021 ID: 696
At OLA on 12/1/58? Born before or after 12/1/58? Where Lived on 12/1/58?
No After n/a
I thought the OLA community would be interested in this story from the University of Tennessee:

Once Burned, Masterfully Treated
By Sheila Champlin

Some men see things as they are and say ‘why?’ I dream of things that never were and say ‘why not?’ ” George Bernard Shaw wrote that famous quotation, which could be a personal motto for UT College of Medicine graduate Dr. A. Richard Grossman (’57).

It all started in 1958 at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. A catastrophic fire struck Our Lady of Angels parochial elementary school, killing 93 children and 4 nuns. Many of the victims were so badly burned, it was impossible to determine whether they were girls or boys. Young Dr. Grossman was the resident surgeon on duty in the emergency room.

That horrific experience had a profound and lasting impact. Not only did it cause him to question methods of burn care, it became the driving force behind his vision to create an innovative world-class comprehensive burn treatment center.

“I wanted to create a facility that would provide the best burn care available anywhere,” says Grossman, “but the goal was not just to ensure the survival of the patient. Our goal was to restore patients to as close to their pre-injury condition as possible—functionally, emotionally, and cosmetically.”

After relocating to Los Angeles, Grossman took a significant step toward achieving his vision. In 1969 he convinced Sherman Oaks Community Hospital, located in a suburb of Los Angeles, to devote two beds exclusively to burn care. By 1978 the burn center at Sherman Oaks had expanded into a freestanding 30-bed specialty unit.

A second Grossman Burn Center was opened at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, California, in 1995. The 7-bed inpatient unit is an intensive care facility, equipped to handle the most severe burn cases, as well as to offer intermediate care for patients with less severe burns. Operating in tandem with the hospital, the center also provides outpatient burn care, surgical suites, hydrotherapy, and access to all the services and support of a large medical system.

Today the two Grossman centers rank among the largest and most comprehensive in the world. They are ­plastic-surgery–based and specialize in comprehensive burn treatment that ranges from acute care and reconstruction to rehabilitation and psychological counseling. --

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.