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To Sleep with the Angels

The Story of a Fire
Narrated by: Sean Runnette
Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, American
5 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

If burying a child has a special poignancy, the tragedy at a Catholic elementary school in Chicago more than 50 years ago was an extraordinary moment of grief. One of the deadliest fires in American history, it took the lives of 92 children and three nuns at Our Lady of the Angels School, left many families physically and psychologically scarred for life, and destroyed a close-knit working-class neighborhood.

This is the moving story of that fire and its consequences, written by two journalists who have been obsessed with the events of that terrible day in December 1958. It is a story of ordinary people caught up in a disaster that shocked the nation. In gripping detail, those who were there - children, teachers, firefighters - describe the fear, desperation, and panic that prevailed in and around the stricken school building on that cold Monday afternoon. But beyond the flames, the story of the fire at Our Lady of the Angels became an enigma whose mystery has deepened with time: Its cause was never officially explained despite evidence that it had been intentionally set by a troubled student at the school.

©1996 David Cowan and John Kuenster (P)2017 Tantor

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amazingly gripping

let us not forget about the mistakes made in one of the worst fires in our country's history. some parts were hard to listen to but necessary.

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  • Rachel
  • Atascadero, CA, United States
  • 08-06-17

One of the saddest stories

This book, is one of the saddest stories I've ever read/listened to.
I listen or seek out this kind of book in an effort to get the story behind the headlines, beyond the sound bite. The personal stories mixed with the factual information was very well done.
I remember hearing about this fire when I was growing up but I certainly didn't know the whole story, and it's probably a good thing that I did not. I recommend this book though I have to say be prepared...

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Cant put it down

This book made me weep for the families who lost and the families who were destroyed

You felt like you were there at each step of the way

The history from the day of the fire to present is astonishing

Sad read but the triumph of all involved fire law dr and nurses make this proud to be of the human race

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Journalism at its best!

This book is a well done account of a deadly fire at Our Lady of Angels Catholic school in Chicago on Dec. 1, 1958. I was very little, but I remember my mom crying and being glued to the TV to know what happened. The book first goes through some accounts of a few children who attended the school along with the pastor of the parish, the janitor and some of the teachers. The layout of the school is well described. The account of the fire, and what went right and wrong is detailed in depth. The authors never miss the humanity of all involved.

The book then goes into the aftermath both for the survivors and the families of those who did not. One must remember that at the time fire safety requirements were much less stringent and the school was grandfathered in under the fire code of the time. The book is one which kept my attention even though I'd read it years ago. The narrator is excellent for nonfiction. His reading was clear and dispassionate while not being boreing. If you are interested in a well reported story which examines all sides of a situation this book is for you. Parts were very touching but I couldn't easily put it down. I'm glad I have a device which fits in my pocket for listening.

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A MUST READ!

I read this book years ago and it haunted me. I impulsively looked for it one day on Audible and here it is, in all its glory.

This is a gripping story about a Catholic school fire in Chicago in 1958. It is not for the squeamish, but it is a true, horrible, sad narrative written beautifully to take some of the sting.

The photos are missing in the audiobook, of course, but I looked at them online after i finished this second go of the book. Anyone interested in the photos can find them by looking for OLA School Fire on Bing or Google. Pictures of the school before the fire, during the fire, and after will haunt you, though. There are only three photos of people being taken out of the fire, and you won't risk seeing them unless you actively search for them. The rest are photos of ladders, firefighters, debris, and things like transoms over doors that explain how the fire progressed as it did.

It is amazing, the things people (schools, communities, firemen) only learn after a tragedy. This fire changed fire safety laws everywhere.

There is a very interesting section in the book about who might have started it, though no one can prove anyone actually did start it purposely. That section revealed some Illinois laws on the books in 1958 that also were updated after this fire.

The very best and the very worst of the Catholic Church is written about here, too. I grew to love the nuns/teachers who did everything to save their students.

Very worthwhile reading, To Sleep With the Angels is a remarkable work of nonfiction and the reading was superb. I think I could listen to anything by this amazing narrator, Sean Runnette.