Hasty Ruminations

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Our Lady of the Angels

Posted by Hello
In 1958, I was in sixth grade at a Catholic school in south suburban Chicago. On December 1, a horrendous fire broke out at a similar school 50 miles away, in Chicago, about six miles west of the city center. Though there were no convictions, a fifth grade boy confessed to setting the fire, and then retracted his confession; but he knew things about the fire that had not been announced. 92 children and three Catholic Sisters died in one of the country’s worst school fires.

I will never forget it.

Now… the principal author of a book about the fire, To Sleep With the Angels: The Story of a Fire, was jailed yesterday, for arson. David Cowan, 41, was charged with setting a fire at another school, St. Benedict’s, in a storage building. He worked there as a janitor until he was recently fired.

In 2001, he lost his job in suburban Bellwood, Illinois. As a firefighter.

He also wrote Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes That Shaped a City, published in 2001. His Amazon.com biography reads, "David Cowan was born in Chicago in 1963. He co-authored (with John Kuenster) (published 1998) the critically acclaimed book about the Our Lady of the Angels school fire, To Sleep With the Angels: The Story of a Fire (Ivan R. Dee, Inc.). A U.S. Air Force veteran and former award-winning newspaper reporter, he holds degrees in journalism and political science from Southern Illinois University. (A former) firefighter and independent journalist, Mr. Cowan has written for major newspapers and magazines and appeared in numerous television documentaries about historic fires. He lives in Chicago with his wife, writer and historian Ursula Bielski, and their daughter, Eva. "


  • At 6:15 AM, Blogger Car Gal said…

    Wow this is really spooky.

  • At 7:06 AM, Blogger Greg Finnegan said…

    I think that this guy is just looking for attention, and he resented all of the other arsonists getting all the "glory". A real nut case.

  • At 5:14 PM, Blogger Brenda said…

    California had a string of arson fires once that were started by one of their top arson investigators. I guess there's a thin line between being interested in something and actually BEING it.

  • At 10:53 AM, Blogger Greg Finnegan said…

    Yes, Brenda. It seems to happen a lot with fire fighters. Not too much with dieticians (they don't suddenly go on an eating binge), or dentists (they don't suddenly drill all of their own teeth). At least, we don't hear about that!


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