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To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire
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April 2019: History > To Sleep With the Angels: The Story of a Fire / David Cowan, John Kuenster. 4.5 stars

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LibraryCin | 4835 comments 4.5 stars

On Dec. 1, 1958, a fire started in the basement of the overcrowded Our Lady of the Angels Catholic school in Chicago. The building was old and more recent fire regulations did not apply to the older buildings, as they were grandfathered in. The building had only one fire escape; it was two stories, but the only fire door was on the first floor. Because of that, the fire crept past the first floor, then exploded on to the 2nd floor. By the time the kids and nuns realized there was a fire, they couldn’t go out the hallways. Kids started jumping out the windows, while others – too scared to do so – waited and hoped to be helped to safety. Ninety-two kids, ages 8 to 14, died as a result of that fire, along with three nuns.

The book takes us through the lead-up to the end of the school day when the fire started, and some of the kids and families involved. It continues to describe the fire and the rescue efforts, and the aftermath, including those kids who got out alive, but had to recover in hospital. It continued still, with the investigation into what caused the fire and through the aftermath years later, as people remembered (or tried not to). The book also has a map of the school, and it shows the number of fatalities and injured in each room. There are also photos. Devastating story, but a fascinating read (and it always feels so weird to describe these real-life disaster books this way). But, they can be (and this one is) so compelling.


Book Concierge (TessaBookConcierge) | 3348 comments I also thought this was excellent. I read it some years back and then went through a phase of reading about all sorts of fires.


LibraryCin | 4835 comments I am certainly interested in reading about more fires. I have read about about the Triangle fire and I've read about a circus fire. But, I'd definitely read more.


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