“Never witnessed a sight so terrible”

 

 

office1At 2:42PM on December 1, 1958 on the sixth floor of Chicago’s City Hall, William Bingham,  the senior alarm operator within the Chicago Fire Alarm Office took a phone call from  rectory housekeeper Nora Maloney.

 

joker3Immediately, the loudspeaker at the firehouse at 3700 West Huron crackled with: “Engine 85 , truck 35, Squad 6, Battalion 18, Patrol 7, a still alarm , 3820 Iowa, 3-8-2-0 Iowa”. 3700 huron2

 

 

Those first firetrucks arrived within three minutes, despite that the fire was actually around the corner at 909 N. Avers.

In the meantime the fire alarm office received a second  telephone call from Barbara Glowacki, the owner of a candy store who used the private telephone in her apartment behind the store to say she sees flames. Fifteen more phone calls soon followed.

A school was on fire!

angelstoosoonMinutes after arriving, Engine 85 Lieutenant Stanley J. Wojnicki ordered a “still and box alarm”, signaling a working fire,  which would bring an additional truck, three additional engines and a second chief. Then at 2:47 he calls for a “2-11” extra alarm, bringing many more firefighters. At 2:52, against protocol, the 18th battalion chief, Miles J. Devine, skipped “3-11” and “4-11”, ordering the highest alarm a “5-11” alarm fire that brought more than 40 more pieces of apparatus, and all available ambulances.

During the 1950s, Our Lady of the Angels parish was one of the largest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, serving more than 4,500 families and more than 1,600 students in their school. 60 years ago, on that fateful day, the Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, Illinois, was destroyed by fire, having started in a trash container at the bottom of a stairwell in the basement. Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn later wrote that he “had never witnessed a sight so terrible.” Ninety-two students and three nuns died as a result of the fire, dozens more suffered serious injuries. th_angels1-0812fe

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The funeral for the three nuns took place first. A Requiem Mass was offered in Our Lady of the Angels Church . The three teachers were interred side by side in a grave next to other nuns of their religious order at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in suburban Hillside, Illinois. For 27 of the young victims a mass and funeral service took place at the Illinois National Guard Armory in Humboldt Park,. The families of the other children buried their children privately. Many of the young students were buried in the “Shrine of the Holy Innocents” plot at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside,  the rest in other cemeteries. OLACemeteries1

A monument at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside Illinois lists the names of all these 95 victims.
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So on this 60th anniversary of this tragedy, we remember:
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Michele Altobell, , Age 13,  Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Robert Anglim, , Age 9,     Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Karen Baroni, , Age 10,           St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

David Biscan , Age 10,    Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Richard Bobrowicz , Age 13,   St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Beverly Burda , Age 13,   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Helen Buziak , Age 12,              St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Peter Cangelosi , Age 10   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

George Cannella, III , Age  10   Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Kathleen Carr , Age 9                St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Margaret Chambers , Age 9        Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Sister Mary Clare Therese Champagne , Age 27     Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Aurelius Chiappetta, Jr. , Age 14       Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Joan Ann Chiappetta , Age 10            Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Joan Chrzas , Age 9        St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Bernice Cichocki , Age 12        Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Rosalie Ciminello , Age 12       Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Roseanna Ciochon , Age 9                 St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Jo Ann Ciolino , Age10            Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Millicent Corsiglia , Age 13      ueen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Karen Culp , Age 10       Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Maria DeGiulio , Age 11 Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Nancy DeSanto , Age 9   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Patricia Drzymala , Age 12       St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Lawrence Dunn, Jr. , Age 10      St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

William Edington, Jr. , Age 13   St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Mary Fanale , Age 12            Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Lucille Filipponio , Age 8     Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Nancy Finnigan , Age 14          St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Ronald Fox , Age 14       Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Janet Gasteier , Age 9               Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Carol Gazzola , Age 13   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Lawrence Grasso, Jr. , Age 12    Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Frances Guzaldo , Age 12         Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Kathleen H, Agerty , Age 13     Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Richard Hardy , Age 9                    t. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Karen Hobik , Age 13                       St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Barbara Hosking , Age 10         Norway Cemetery, Norway Michigan

Victor Jacobellis , Age 9    Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

John Jajkowski, Jr. , Age 10        St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Angeline Kalinowski , Age 14    St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Diane Karwacki , Age 9          Bloomfield Cemetery, Pell Lake,  Wisconisin

Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley ,   Age 43   Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Joseph King , Age 10                    Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Kenneth Kompanowski , Age 14        St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Richard Kompanowski , Age 10         St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Margaret Kucan , Age 10                    Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Patricia Kuzma , Age 10              St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Annette LaMantia , Age 10       Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Rose LaPlaca , Age 13              Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng , Age 44   Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Joseph Maffiola , Age 10              St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Raymond Makowski , Age 11          St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Linda Malinski , Age10             St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

John Manganello , Age10         St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

John Mele , Age 10                  Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Joseph Modica, Jr., Age  9        Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

James Moravec , Age 12            St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Mary Moretti , Age 12        Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Charles Neubert , Age 9             St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Lorraine Nieri , Age 12              St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Janet Olechowski , Age 12        St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Yvonne Pacini , Age  9              St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Antoinette Patrasso , Age 11     Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Eileen Pawlik , Age 13              St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Carolyn Perry , Age 10   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Elaine Pesoli , Age 10     Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Mary Pettenon , Age 9        St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Edward Pikinski , Age 11         St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Nancy Pilas , Age 12                Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Frank Piscopo , Age 10   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

James Profita , Age 9      Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

James Ragona , Age 9              Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Roger Ramlow , Age 13   Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Marilyn Reeb , Age 10    St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Nancy Riche , Age 12     St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Margaret Sansonetti , Age 10    Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Diane Santangelo , Age 9 Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Joanne Sarno , Age 9       Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

William Sarno , Age 13   Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Kurt Schutt , Age 8                   St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Antoinette Secco , Age 10        Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

James Sickels , Age 10    St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Paul Silvio , Age 9          St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois

Susan Smaldone , Age  9 Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Nancy Smid , Age 10      Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Linda Stabile , Age9       Mt Carmel   Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Mark Stachura , Age 9    St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Mary Tamburrino , Age 13       Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Philip Tampone , Age 11 Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Valerie Thoma , Age 13 Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

John Trotta , Age 13                 Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Mary Virgilio , Age 15    Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Christina Vitacco , Age 12        Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois

Wayne Wisz , Age 10      St. Nicholas Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois

 

May they all rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on ““Never witnessed a sight so terrible””

  1. Thank you to the firefighters, then, who tried so valiantly and cried with us. Thank you to the firefighters now who’s bravery knows no bounds.
    I honor all of you for your effort and sacrifice.

    Like

  2. The live Christmas tree in my Chicago Public School disappeared instantly. Then sometimes a fireman would come to the school and pull the alarm hook (not notifying the office first) and time how long it took us to evacuate. The look of terror on the teachers’ faces told you they thought it was a real fire. And woe betide you if you acted up during one of these drills.

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  3. My Father was the Dr. In charge at St.Annes. He developed burn procedures, that are still used today! I remember the horrible smell, when he came home to shower & then go back. He was greatly effected for life. So so sad.

    Like

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