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50th Anniversary: Our Lady of the Angels Fire

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50th Anniversary: Our Lady of the Angels Fire

Our Lady of the Angels Roman Catholic elementary school burned down on Chicago’s northwest side on Dec. 1, 1958. (AP)

Today is the 50th anniversary of the tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels School on Chicago's West Side. This dark spot in the city's history took the lives of 92 children and three nuns and caused the rewrite of several local fire laws.

The first 911 call for the fire came 20 minutes or more after it started, shortly before the end of the school day. A housekeeper at the rectory called and gave her address but didn't mention the school. As a result, firefighters responded with manpower and equipment for a house fire.

Joe Murray was among the first men to arrive at the school. He'd graduated from Our Lady of the Angels in 1942. Still familiar with many of the teachers and some of the families of the 1600 pupils, he recognized the address when the call came in. Murray's now 80 years old but he remembers that December 1st, 1958 like it was yesterday. These are his memories, please keep in mind that some descriptions are graphic.

Chicago Fire Department Captain Joe Murray, the father of 11 children, retired in 1991 after 38 years of service. He spoke with John Conroy in his home on the northwest side of Chicago.

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