DISASTERS: The Chicago School Fire

In a fifth-grade geography class, ten-year-old John Mele wrote in his notebook: "Where along the Atlantic Coastal Plain can oysters be found?" In a seventh-grade history class, twelve-year-old Andrea Gagliardo was studying "The Missionaries in Florida and Louisiana." In an eighth-grade classroom, a boy had written in his spelling book: SKELETON, AMBULANCE, also "What is the definition of fiery?"

It was 2:35 p.m., and already, through the highceilinged, 48-year-old Our Lady of the Angels grammar school in West Side Chicago, many of the 1,200 youngsters were beginning to turn away from books,...

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