Our Lady of the Angels School fire
A fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels School shortly before classes were to be dismissed on Monday, December 1, 1958, in the basement near the foot of a stairway in the Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, Illinois. The elementary school was operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and had an enrollment of approximately 1600 students. A total of 92 pupils and 3 nuns ultimately died when smoke, heat, fire, and toxic gasses cut off their normal means of escape through corridors and stairways. Many more were injured when they jumped from second-floor windows which, because the building had an English basement, were nearly as high as a third floor would be on level ground (c. 25 ft.).The disaster was the lead headline story in American, Canadian, and European newspapers. Pope John XXIII sent his condolences from the Vatican in Rome. The severity of the fire shocked the nation and surprised educational administrators of both public and private schools. The disaster led to major improvements in standards for school design and fire safety codes.The fire has been chronicled in three books, The Fire That Will Not Die by Michele McBride (ETC Publications, 1979), To Sleep With The Angels by David Cowen and John Kuenster (Ivan R. Dee, 2003), Remembrances of the Angels by John Kuenster (Ivan R. Dee, 2008) and a 2003 Emmy-winning television documentary, Angels Too Soon, produced by WTTW Channel 11 Chicago. The History Channel also featured the disaster in the television documentary Hellfire, which was an episode in the cable network's ""Wrath of God"" series.