Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 19, 2013

BRADBERRY: Out of the fire: Life from the ashes

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — As though performing the Stations of the Cross, I stopped, looked and listened, acknowledging each place, and each painful or pleasant memory of each person that I could recall. I was communing with the spirits of the once-crowded, lively streets. The loudest voices were those of the children singing, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." I followed their voices to 2449 Allen Ave., where the Moonglow Hotel fire had snatched 18 of my neighbors in the city's worst-ever fire.

As if struck by a bolt of lightning, I began to remember what I had for decades repressed.

What had actually happened here?

It all started with the fire, Nov. 16, 1957; I was 9 years old.

As I recalled, my family was asleep at 2417 Allen Ave. In the back bedrooms, where my sisters and I lay dreaming about the ice cream in the basement freezer next to the shelves of canned peaches and pears, we most likely smiled in our sleep.

One block over, my friends, the Ward kids, Leo, David, Clarence Ward and their sisters, tired from the long day of school and playing were sleeping too, like all the rest of us, dreaming of Thanksgiving and Christmas just ahead.

Meanwhile, at 2449 Allen Ave. at the Moonglow, near the foot of the street, little Howard, Horace, Belinda, Arlene, Gloria Jean, twins Terry and Jerry, tiny 2-month-old Bonnie Patricia and their mother, Mrs. Mary Ewing, were huddled together in their beds, finding each others' warmth against the cold wind that crept in through the cracks in the walls.

In another room slept some of the Reid children, Walter, Carson, Harvey, William, Sanford and 5-month-old Mary Louise.

The furnace in their building was not working correctly that night, according to some.

Next door, Thelma Duncan, Essie Mixon and her children were enjoying the good sleep that comes just before dawn.

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