On December 1, 1958, a fire at Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago claimed the lives of 92 children and 3 nuns. Three of my children were at school at that time. This dreadful memory is re-awakened by the killing, last week, in the next town to me (Sandy Hook, Newtown) of 27 people, including 20 first grade students, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shooter then took his own life.

I am astounded to find I have nothing on my blog about the OLA fire and that needs to be remedied now. Unlike the parents in Newtown, I did not have to go running to the burning school fearing to find my children burned or dead. I had left my house planning to go to the store with the two little kids in the stroller. On the way to the store I found Wendy coming from school who told me the school was on fire! Fortunately, and thank God!, Terry and Peggy soon came along. They had gotten out safely. Some of our neighbors did not fare so well.

We are blessed to be have available photos of Wendy’s classroom and Terry’s classroom taken a couple of years earlier. Terry is first, in the first row. Wendy is second, in the first row. Note, please, the size of the class. In those days one nun was able to deal with sixty students! How things have changed!

Terry in class

Wendy in class

For those with an interest in the Our Lady of the Angels school fire the link (first line) above presents an awesome overview put together by someone quite some time after the fact. At the time of the fire Wendy was in room 206. This little note explains why she escaped safely.

About this classroom:
This classroom was located on the second floor of the annex, closest to the north wing classrooms. While no children or staff in room 206 suffered significant injuries, this is the room from which a 10-year-old boy was excused to go to the restroom shortly after 2 pm, a few minutes before the fire started in the basement. Several years later, at age 13, he confessed to setting the fire in a trash barrel in the basement. In court, however, he recanted the confession, and neither he, nor anyone was ever prosecuted for the fire at Our Lady of the Angels. Room 206 was one of only three classrooms with an exit leading to the school’s single external fire escape.