Are Our Children Safer?
One hundred and five years ago this morning, disaster struck Lake View School in Collinwood, Ohio.
Fritz Hirter, school custodian, had arrived near dawn on a late winter’s day, to fire up the school’s coal burning furnace. The children were let into the building around 8AM and the fire was reported by a student at about 9:30.
The next minutes were a panicked blur as fire ascended the open 3-floor staircase trapping students and causing a blinding rush for the few exits.
Bodies piled up at the doorway to the point where pulling the children out was impossible.
172 students and two adults were killed in minutes, some as they were forced to jump from upper floors. Bodies were so badly burned they were unidentifiable and were buried in a mass grave at Lake View Cemetery.
Where fire is concerned, today’s schools are some of the safest buildings in America but our children are not much safer.
A Collinwood parent, circa 1908, would doubtlessly be astonished to learn that in 2013, the number one threat to children is murder by gun fire, often in mass killings and frequently at the hands of fellow students or young adults.
What would they say from their vantage point afar? No doubt they would marvel at both our schools and our unwillingness to keep our children safe in them.
As, indeed they should.