Survivors talk about Our Lady of Angels fire

December 1, 2008 3:58:51 PM PST
It's a tragedy Chicago will never forget. Fifty years ago, 95 lives were lost at a fire at Our Lady of Angels. At the West Side intersection of Avers and Iowa, the old Our Lady of Angels School is gone. It was torn down after the fire and has been replaced by what is now a charter school. The parish has been disbanded and the neighbors have moved on. Basically, all that's left are black and white memories from December 1st, 1958, the day 92 children and three nuns died in a tragedy almost beyond comprehension.

Those memories and a memorial that used to be at Our Lady Of Angels Parish are cared for now at holy Family Church On West Roosevelt. On Sunday they had a memorial mass dedicated to all those who died -- and those who survived that fire half a century ago today.

They came from around the area and across the country. After the mass the stories told were as fresh as yesterday.

"When the fire alarm went off we opened the door and black smoke just poured into the room," said Peter Biancalana, 7th Grade Survivor of Fire.

"We opened it up. There was completely pitch black. The darkest like picture midnight with no stars," said Joseph Digioie, 6th Grade Survivor of Fire.

"My grandfather who lived right across the street. He grabbed his ladder and he started pulling kids out," said Joseph Romeo, survivor of Fire.

"And I somehow managed to get out of the window and hold onto the gutter pipe. Hand over hand I just crawled," said Annette Szafran, 8th Grade Survivor of Fire.

Mary Ellen Reeves was a fourth-grader. Her sister, Karen, died. She was in eighth grade.

"When my dad came home from work. We couldn't find my sister and he went from hospital to hospital and finally ended up at the morgue," said Reeves.

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