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  1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Post 60 years ago- The Circus Fire kills 168

    Memorial to be dedicated on 60th anniversary of deadly circus fire
    AP Photos
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    By SARAH COFFEY
    Associated Press Writer
    HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The band struck up "Jeanie with the
    Light Brown Hair," a signal to the performers that something was
    wrong, as flames began to light up the walls of the circus tent.
    Within minutes, the big top at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum
    & Bailey Circus was engulfed, sending the matinee crowd of 6,000
    mostly women and children scrambling for their lives.
    The disaster on July 6, 1944, which became known as "The Day
    the Clowns Cried," killed 168 people and injured more than 700
    others.
    Sixty years to the day of the blaze, Hartford will honor the
    victims by dedicating the city's first memorial to the circus fire
    on Tuesday.
    It has taken so long for the idea of a monument to materialize
    because survivors were too grief-stricken to think about building
    one, said Hartford Fire Chief Charles A. Teale, a co-chairman of
    the Hartford Circus Fire Memorial Foundation.
    "It was during the aftermath of depression and during World War
    II. People were already overwhelmed with the experiences of life.
    They went to the circus for entertainment, and came away losing 100
    children and 68 adults," Teale said.
    The foundation, founded in August 2002, has raised more than
    $100,000 to erect the memorial at the site of the fire, now only a
    few yards away from the Fred D. Wish Elementary School. The
    memorial will be placed where the center ring of the three-ring
    circus once stood, with the names of those who died etched in the
    blue stone.
    The memorial, circular in shape, will feature pedestrian
    pathways lined with descriptive plaques and bricks carrying the
    messages of victims' families, survivors and other contributors.
    Granite benches will offer rest for visitors.
    In the middle of the memorial, a large bronze medallion will
    bear the names of those who perished there. It is hoped the
    memorial will be completed by the fall.
    The youngest survivors are in their 60s. Eunice Groark, the
    state's former lieutenant governor, was 6 when she attended the
    circus with her mother and her mother's nurse.
    "You have no idea what the panic was like," she said. "There
    was pushing and shoving, people just frantic to get out of there.
    It was a mass exodus."
    The big top, waterproofed with 1,800 pounds paraffin thinned
    with 6,000 gallons of gasoline, burned quickly to the ground,
    giving those inside little time to escape.
    In the panic to flee, people climbed over animal chutes and
    toward exits. Some fell and were trampled.
    Most of the victims were found piled up near an exit blocked by
    animal cages. Hundreds more escaped after a 13-year-old boy ripped
    a hole through the canvas tent with a jackknife.
    Others made their escape through the tent's open gates.
    Nancy Spada was 8 at the time of the fire. She and her mother,
    father and two sisters were sitting at the top of the tent's
    bleachers when a small ball of fire began to grow to their left.
    They escaped, but she lost an aunt and cousin, who sat near the
    animal cages after the top bleachers became crowded.
    "My mom and dad went to the funeral of my aunt and cousin, but
    after that we never talked about it. I don't know why. It was just
    too painful, or that generation just never talked about things like
    that," she said.
    The memorial is helping people remember, although it remains
    difficult, she said.
    "People have called to say they can't go up there. They lost
    relatives and they were survivors. It's very difficult," she said.
    "When I was up there last year it was so difficult for me to even
    walk the grounds. But I've been there since, and each time is
    easier."
    A smoldering cigarette was initially blamed for the fire, but
    later police concluded it had been set. State police reopened the
    case in 1991 to investigate whether arson was involved, but
    eventually reclassified the cause as undetermined.
    In the days following the fire, thousands viewed the burned
    bodies of the victims at the State Armory, which had been set up as
    a makeshift morgue, trying to locate and identify relatives.
    Five were burned beyond recognition and never identified. A
    sixth became known as Little Miss 1565, the code number she was
    assigned at the temporary morgue.
    Little Miss 1565 came to symbolize the fire. In the early 1990s
    she was identified by a police investigator as 8-year-old Eleanor
    Emily Cook. She had attended the circus with her mother and two
    brothers, Donald and Edward. Donald, 9, escaped unharmed, but
    Edward, 6, perished. Mildred Cook was critically injured and unable
    to view the child's remains.
    Eleanor's family expressed relief at the identify, and reburied
    the child in the family's plot.
    But the dental records don't match, so the mystery continues, as
    does the fascination.
    The fire has been the subject of at least four books, including
    "The Circus Fire," by Steward O'Nan; "A Matter of Degree," by
    Don Massey and Rick Davey; "The Great Hartford Circus Fire," by
    David Bolier and Henry S. Cohn.; and "Worlds Afire," by Paul B.
    Janeczko.
    Groark said she continues to be haunted by the screams she heard
    and the sight of the circus tent, consumed by fire, crashing to the
    ground and trapping victims underneath.
    "I am still terrified. When I go to the movies or am in a big
    crowd, I need to find the exit," she said.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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  2. #2
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Unhappy July 6, 1944

    HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - When the schoolchildren released the 168
    balloons into the air, it triggered something inside of Jim Murphy.
    Each balloon represented a person who died in the Hartford
    circus fire on July 6, 1944, including Murphy's father, mother and
    brother.
    "I think the releasing of the balloons did a lot for me,"
    Murphy, 60, of New Britain, said at a groundbreaking ceremony for a
    memorial to the fire's victims on Tuesday, the 60th anniversary of
    the disaster. "Maybe it was closure, I don't know, but it
    helped."
    The fire that engulfed a tent at the Ringling Brothers and
    Barnum & Bailey Circus also injured 700 people. Murphy, an infant
    at the time, was being cared for at home while his family went to
    the show.
    Hundreds of survivors and relatives of the victims gathered for
    the ceremony at the site of the blaze, now only a few yards from
    Fred D. Wish Elementary School in the city's North End.
    The memorial, at the spot where the center ring stood, will have
    the names of those who died etched in stone and will include
    pedestrian pathways lined with plaques and bricks carrying messages
    from victims' families, survivors and other contributors. It is
    expected to be completed in the fall.
    The Hartford Circus Fire Memorial Foundation raised more than
    $100,000 for the project.
    The crowd at the ceremony wept and cheered as three people,
    including two circus survivors, broke ground with shovels. Speakers
    included Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, Police Chief Patrick J.
    Harnett and Fire Chief Charles A. Teale, who is a co-chairman of
    the memorial foundation.
    Many bowed their heads and held hands during the moment of
    silence, and survivors, the youngest of whom are in their 60s,
    stood for a round of applause.
    Nearly 6,000 people, mostly women and children, were attending a
    matinee performance in the big top when the fire started. The
    canvas had been waterproofed with 1,800 pounds of paraffin thinned
    with 6,000 gallons of gasoline and the tent burned quickly, giving
    the audience little time to escape.
    In the panic to flee, some people fell and were trampled. Most
    victims were found piled up near an exit blocked by animal cages.
    A smoldering cigarette was initially blamed for the fire, but
    police later concluded it had been set. State police reopened the
    case in 1991 to investigate whether arson was involved, but
    eventually reclassified the cause as undetermined.
    Survivors Geraldine Conlon Harrington and her son, John W.
    Conlon, said they came back 60 years later to remember the lives
    that were lost.
    They both suffered third-degree burns, and were kept at Hartford
    Hospital for five months. There, they were treated with penicillin
    and wore improvised newspaper splints.
    At the time, John was only 5-years-old, but he says he still
    remembers every moment of the day. He remembers the heat, the
    flames and the screams. He says he doesn't like to dwell on what
    happened, although the burn scars on his arm, leg and back act as
    painful reminders.
    And he often thinks of the anonymous man who drove him and his
    mother to the hospital.
    "All I know is that it was a black pickup truck. That's what he
    was driving," John Conlon, 65, said. "I would really like to
    thank him."
    ---
    Associated Press Writer Sarah Coffey contributed to this report.
    ---
    On the Net:
    Memorial Foundation: http://www.hartfordcircusfirememorial.com

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  3. #3
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default Here's what I posted on 7/6 in teh Firefighters Forum

    Circus Fire Remembered
    Memorial To Mark Site Of One Of Hartford's Worst Tragedies
    By GOSIA WOZNIACKA
    Courant Staff Writer

    July 6 2004

    Ten years ago today, Charles A. Teale Sr., a Hartford Fire Department captain, presented a plaque that now hangs in the lobby of Fred D. Wish Elementary School in Hartford. "In loving memory of those who perished on this location fifty years ago, July 6, 1944, and with heartfelt condolences to their survivors," reads the inscription.

    Today, on the 60th anniversary of the Hartford circus fire, Teale - now the city's fire chief - will join others in breaking ground on a more lasting memorial to the 168 people who died that day.

    Teale, along with city Treasurer Kathleen Palm; Hartford teacher Kathy Spada-Basto, daughter of a fire survivor; and other civic leaders have raised about $115,000 to build a 35-foot circular plaza in memory of the victims at the site where the circus tent stood.

    They will gather at the site, behind the elementary school at 350 Barbour St. in Hartford's Northeast neighborhood at 2 p.m., for a memorial and groundbreaking ceremony. The public is invited.

    A bronze medallion at the center of the plaza, 8 feet in diameter, will be the heart of the memorial. It will mark the exact spot where the center pole of the circus tent stood on July 6, 1944. An image of the tent and the date of the fire will be engraved in the middle of the medallion, which also will be engraved with the victims' names.

    Phil Barlow, a landscape architect at TO Design LLC of Hartford who helped design the project, said flowering trees will be planted around the plaza to mark the perimeter of where the tent once stood and its main entrances.

    "The trees are symbolic. People will be able to tell the size of the tent and locate its entrance, where a lot of the deaths occurred," Barlow said. "So people will be able to figure out where their loved ones were during the fire."

    The medallion will be surrounded by a circle 33 feet in diameter, with four benches. Four bronze plaques will be placed across from the benches and engraved with quotations from survivors and victims' family members. The circle will be filled with inscribed bricks. The public can purchase individual bricks with specialized inscriptions for $50 each.

    A path will lead into the memorial from the Wish School parking lot. A plaque at the entrance will describe the fire and the symbols included in the memorial. Other small plaques along the path will include more facts about the circus fire.

    The memorial will be ready by the end of October, Barlow said. The design was a joint project between TO Design LLC and DuBose Associates, also of Hartford.

    At 11 a.m. today, WWUH-FM (91.3) at the University of Hartford will air a documentary about the circus fire featuring interviews with survivors.

    Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant


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  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    Default

    It is said that Emmett Kelly, probably the world's best-known clown, was there that day and from that day forward always included a teardrop as part of his makeup.

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