Website, books help Our Lady of the Angels fire survivors cope, connect

Dec 01, 2018 451

BY: Maureen O'Donnell

(Dec. 1, 2018, marks the 60th anniversary of the fire at Our Lady of the Angels School on Chicago’s West Side. This story was originally published on Sept. 1, 2003.) More than 44 years later, the smell of smoke still sends some of them into a panic. Everywhere they go, they check for fire exits. Some have struggled with depression, sleepwalking or claustrophobia.

They lived through the horrific fire at Chicago’s Our Lady of the Angels School on Dec. 1, 1958. It killed 92 children and three nuns, and put a knife through the heart of Chicago’s Italian-American community. The blaze destroyed families and marriages and brought silence to a West Side neighborhood of Italian lemonade stands and pizzerias. Every block seemed to have lost a child — or two or three. It changed fire drills and safety codes throughout the country.

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