our lady of the angels fire 95 students killed 50th anniversary

On Dec. 1, 1958, a fire consumed Our Lady of the Angels grade school on the West Side of Chicago, killing 92 children and three nuns. Full Story
Robin Daley

Thousand Oaks, CA

#51 Nov 30, 2008
Sad, but beautifully written article.
I was 8 at the time of the fire, safe in a school on the East Side. But I clearly remember coming home from school that day, wondering why my mother was tearfully hugging me. She'd been following the story on the radio.
The inside of the doomed school was filled with wood wainscotting nearly to the ceilings covered with decades of layered varnish. The stairwells were so narrow that many were "one-way" because they could only accomodate single-file traffic. The hallways were dark even midday.
Yes, this fire changed everything, and students today are safer because of it.
lorisdailydose

Winfield, IL

#52 Dec 1, 2008
Bill wrote:
<quoted text>
What's your point?
They DID show them 50 years ago. My mother saved the papers. They were quite graphic. They showed them again through the years. Pay the money and do an archive search!
Jacoma Corporale

Springfield, IL

#53 Dec 1, 2008
The children that died in that fire are still waiting for justice to prevail; where is the justice? Without justice there's no peace in sight. By process of elimination we cannot blame the children nor their parents, so why hasn't the Archdiocese stepped up to the plate to take responsibility & accountability? Whoever you are, you have blood on your hands. I, unfortunately am a product of Catholic schools for 12 years, & know the rampant stupidity of that time. No, God did not take the good ones; no, it was not an act of God. These phrases were used by the Nuns & Clergy as a coverup. I was 3 years old when the fire occured, yet, when I attended Catholic Grammar School a few years later, this fire was never mentioned. The Nuns & Priests had orders to "dummy up" & cover up. I went to Mass every morning before class; never in the 8 years I attended was this tragedy mentioned. How does the Archdiocese justify this? How dare you pretend that this never happened, or stupidly think that if you sweep it under the rug it will go away?

Back in the 60's, a favorite phrase the Nuns loved then was telling kids like myself that if we did or said something they did not like, we would "go to hell". I was too young to say this then, but am old enough now to tell the Clergy & Nuns to go to hell themselves.
hayesk0304

Peoria, IL

#54 Dec 1, 2008
My grammar school gym teacher was a 7th grader in this fire. He helped other kids get out by making a human ladder chain. Needless to say, we had great fire safety at my grammar school.

It happened 22 years before my time and even I know the importance and sadness of this event. God help them all.

Mr. G, you've left an influence. SJC, class of '84.
Confused

United States

#55 Dec 1, 2008
union fool...if you did any research, you'd know the room number of the child who set the fire...as well as the names of the 4 boys in the class. no rumor being started by my question. all this information is listed on the ola website. history books are filled with scores of names of people who have committed crimes...this paper is filled with names of people who have committed crimes. moron. maybe you should comment on the people who have blamed nuns and janitors who did nothing but help.
Caryn Rose

Chicago, IL

#56 Dec 2, 2008
I hadn't been born yet when this tragedy took place, but I remember my parents mentioning it when I was a child. I've read the book" To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire" that tells about the fire & it made me very sad. To think that another child may have started this fire intentionally is beyond belief! What kind of a soulless monster could set a school on fire, especially when children are present? I just wish they would have caught the person or persons who did this. May all of the victims rest in eternal peace.
Union Maid

Oakland, CA

#57 Dec 5, 2008
Confused wrote:
union fool...if you did any research, you'd know the room number of the child who set the fire...as well as the names of the 4 boys in the class. no rumor being started by my question. all this information is listed on the ola website. history books are filled with scores of names of people who have committed crimes...this paper is filled with names of people who have committed crimes. moron. maybe you should comment on the people who have blamed nuns and janitors who did nothing but help.
I make no judgments as I was not there just an observer as were most of the people writing here. Since they were not charged and there was not enough proof there are only may have been persons of interest but not necessarily guilty. bringing it up again with no proof just continues what may be false accusations.

What I think is most sad is the way you need to name call.. Calling people fool and moron does not do much to bolster your credibility or ability to argue your point well..

Just because in other places people were wrong doesn't mean it is OK to continue it. You obviously have never been accused of something you didn't do and suffered for it. While I haven't, I have worked with people who have. It can ruin a peson's life. Since I was commenting on your bringing up names on people who weren't charged, I am not sure why you brought up who I should question. Other posters did that...without names.

If you want to name that nun who had her class sit well that's up to you.

Aren't you lucky you can hide behind the anonymity of Topix and spew what ever you want without being held responsible.
Confused

United States

#58 Dec 6, 2008
Union Maid wrote:
<quoted text>
I make no judgments as I was not there just an observer as were most of the people writing here. Since they were not charged and there was not enough proof there are only may have been persons of interest but not necessarily guilty. bringing it up again with no proof just continues what may be false accusations.
What I think is most sad is the way you need to name call.. Calling people fool and **** does not do much to bolster your credibility or ability to argue your point well..
Just because in other places people were wrong doesn't mean it is OK to continue it. You obviously have never been accused of something you didn't do and suffered for it. While I haven't, I have worked with people who have. It can ruin a peson's life. Since I was commenting on your bringing up names on people who weren't charged, I am not sure why you brought up who I should question. Other posters did that...without names.
If you want to name that nun who had her class sit well that's up to you.
Aren't you lucky you can hide behind the anonymity of Topix and spew what ever you want without being held responsible.
whatever, you're ridiculous. don't read the news if you don't want to know about facts. i was told to respect my elders, so i apologize for even replying to how YOU first condemned ME. seems like a guilty conscience... as for being anonymous, i'd glady speak to you to your face about any issues you may have.
Not Confused At All

Seattle, WA

#59 Dec 8, 2008
Indeed, a quick look at the OLAFire site reveals four boys (Grimaldi, Grosso, Kellner, and Leonard) in that classroom. Search the accounts of survivors, and you find Kellner quoted as saying:

<blockquote>On the day of the fire, I was sent down to the basement along with another student from Room 206, a prime candidate for having started the fire, to empty garbage pails. I knew this student pretty well and had seen him light matches in apartment buildings prior to the date of the fire. In fact, after the fire, I presented an account of what I knew about this person to the people taking statements from the students. I'll never forget the student's name. Whether or not he was guilty, I'm not the one to judge him, but I do know that he did not return to the classroom when I did that day, that there was no fire in the basement of the school during the time I was in the basement of the school and that the fire was noticed shortly after this student returned to the classroom.</blockquote>

So, of the three of them, which one was it? James Grosso, ironically, also provides an account, in which he says:

<blockquote>On the afternoon of the fire, Ms. Tristano sent me and another boy on an errand down to the basement but we never made it. We saw smoke and went back to the room.</blockquote>

Can there be any doubt that Grosso is indeed the boy who accompanied Keller to the basement? It doesn't take a genius to draw the rational conclusion.
Union Maid

Oakland, CA

#60 Dec 9, 2008
Confused wrote:
<quoted text>
whatever, you're ridiculous. don't read the news if you don't want to know about facts. i was told to respect my elders, so i apologize for even replying to how YOU first condemned ME. seems like a guilty conscience... as for being anonymous, i'd glady speak to you to your face about any issues you may have.
I didn't condemn you, I confronted you on what I still think is an issue. It is not about not wanting to know the truth it is about KNOWING the truth. The only people who truly know are the ones who set it. Others have strong suspicions. Just think of all of the people who have been released from death row in Illinois and other states after being wrongly convicted...those trials had people who testified under oath that they KNEW who committed the crime and they were wrong!
A little confused

Lake In The Hills, IL

#61 Dec 10, 2008
Not Confused At All wrote:
Indeed, a quick look at the OLAFire site reveals four boys (Grimaldi, Grosso, Kellner, and Leonard) in that classroom. Search the accounts of survivors, and you find Kellner quoted as saying:
<blockquote>On the day of the fire, I was sent down to the basement along with another student from Room 206, a prime candidate for having started the fire, to empty garbage pails. I knew this student pretty well and had seen him light matches in apartment buildings prior to the date of the fire. In fact, after the fire, I presented an account of what I knew about this person to the people taking statements from the students. I'll never forget the student's name. Whether or not he was guilty, I'm not the one to judge him, but I do know that he did not return to the classroom when I did that day, that there was no fire in the basement of the school during the time I was in the basement of the school and that the fire was noticed shortly after this student returned to the classroom.</blockquote>
So, of the three of them, which one was it? James Grosso, ironically, also provides an account, in which he says:
<blockquote>On the afternoon of the fire, Ms. Tristano sent me and another boy on an errand down to the basement but we never made it. We saw smoke and went back to the room.</blockquote>
Can there be any doubt that Grosso is indeed the boy who accompanied Keller to the basement? It doesn't take a genius to draw the rational conclusion.
I beleive you are wrong in accusing Grosso of setting the fire. If you search the OLA website, you will find that the suspected arsonist died in 2004. If you search more, you will find that Grosso and his family attended the 50th anniversary memorial last week. How can he attend the memorial if he is dead?
our lady of angels

Chicago, IL

#62 Dec 13, 2008
i'm sorry
our lady of angels

Chicago, IL

#63 Dec 13, 2008
im sorry
TAC

United States

#64 Dec 21, 2008
Rest assured that there were more than 4 boys in Room 206 and therefore the list of four does not necessarily include the name of the boy who confessed in 1962 to setting the fire. This alleged firestarter had no siblings at OLA and shortly thereafter transferred to a school in Cicero. Kellner, Grosso and Grimaldi all appear in the Class of 62 picture on the OLA website and Leonard is listed as having two brothers at the school. Clearly, not one of them is the culprit.

Since: Jul 07

PARK RIDGE IL.

#65 Dec 21, 2008
Just watched the video again and we've all heard the story about the CFD misdirected to the rectory and sge said they pullled up in the front of the school.

In spite the film we see at the beginning I guess the fire hadn't spread which might also explain the confusion.
Citizen

Tinley Park, IL

#66 Dec 21, 2008
No Different wrote:
<quoted text>
Oh Good Lord, you've got busted sidewalks,haphazard/unchecked construction projects, non-standard balcony railings and pre-war plumbing throughout this city. Check the standards for Dearborn, MI (or Detroit for that matter) to get Chicago in the 21st century.
I feel "safer" in Chicago in that I may not get hit by a bullet, but I may get stabbed in the back walking down the street or run over by somebody gabbing on their cell phone while driving (=UNenforced cell phone ban).
What do you mean by 'check the standards of Detroit'? Chicago is full of old buildings, the city is continuously working to bring it up to code which is very very very expensive. Are you saying that in Detroit all buildings are up to code or that their codes are beter or what? I'm sure they have very old buildings also or maybe you are not sure what you are talking about?
Citizen

Tinley Park, IL

#67 Dec 21, 2008
Robin Daley wrote:
Sad, but beautifully written article.
I was 8 at the time of the fire, safe in a school on the East Side. But I clearly remember coming home from school that day, wondering why my mother was tearfully hugging me. She'd been following the story on the radio.
The inside of the doomed school was filled with wood wainscotting nearly to the ceilings covered with decades of layered varnish. The stairwells were so narrow that many were "one-way" because they could only accomodate single-file traffic. The hallways were dark even midday.
Yes, this fire changed everything, and students today are safer because of it.
Thanks for the info on the building; that helps. Yes, that definetely sounds like a fire hazard and a trap.

Since: Jul 07

PARK RIDGE IL.

#68 Jan 18, 2009
I know this is a month old now but it's still hard not to think about.

1 of the things that really suprises me more than anything else is no alarm connection to the CFD and no alarm box outside the school.

Now I'm aware of the fact that the school didn't have to follow the modern codes but why couldn't they have had an alarm connection to the FD which probably was much more simple.
Julie - OLA Alum

Tonganoxie, KS

#69 Feb 24, 2009
An OLA alum wrote:
I was three at the time of the fire. I remember very clearly my mom looking out the window and saying, "Look at those crazy kids without coats on in December!" Then we heard sirens. And more sirens. Then she said, "My God, it's the school" and ran out the door. She stopped at the corner and came back. She was forever grateful that she didn't continue on to see the fire - the photos were devastating enough.
The sorrow in the neighborhood was palpable. There was not a block without a child lost or horribly injured. But I disagree with the premise that the parish died off because of the fire. I was in the first class to attend the new OLA school from K-8 and the parish and the neighborhood were alive and thriving. Yes, some of those who lost children moved in the years right after the fire, but the reality is our neighborhood, like many other city neighborhoods, only began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s due to White Flight.
I totally agree with you. I graduated from OLA in 1976 and maybe enrollment had started to decrease, but I believe the parish was still fairly strong at that time. I loved my years at OLA.
barrett

Apollo, PA

#70 Apr 19, 2010
Confused wrote:
union fool...if you did any research, you'd know the room number of the child who set the fire...as well as the names of the 4 boys in the class. no rumor being started by my question. all this information is listed on the ola website. history books are filled with scores of names of people who have committed crimes...this paper is filled with names of people who have committed crimes. moron. maybe you should comment on the people who have blamed nuns and janitors who did nothing but help.
Looking for name of 13 yr old confessed arsonist of the Our Lady of Angels fire. Died 2004, might be Phillip, lived in California, served in Vietnam , drove truck. I can be reached at barrdd@comcast.net

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