What December 13th Means to Us

War Memorial Grotto - Providence College
War Memorial Grotto – Providence College

For the past few years, I’ve posted here and again last year about a fire. A dormitory fire at Providence College on December 13, 1977 that claimed the lives of ten young women. If, like me, you were a student at PC, or the parent of a student, a sibling, close friend, or alumnus, this event most likely has stayed with you, even 37 years later.

We remember December 13 every year, with memories as fresh and painful as they were decades earlier. December 13 is the date. Not December 12. We don’t commemorate the terrorist attacks on September 10, or remember Pearl Harbor Day on December 6.

Robin Craig Piebes (PC ’80) recalls: “When I talk to people about Providence College and what sets it apart, it’s that community. It was being taken in by girls I didn’t know that night. It was being given their clothes to wear, watching boys move cars and carry girls who had no shoes. It was the comfort a college president gave by living in the dorm with us afterwards and sending flowers every holiday. All of these things are what I have always thought of Providence to be.”

When we were students, there were so many daily Masses, you could attend a quick service between classes at this Catholic college. Today, there are Masses on Sunday and on weekdays, but no scheduled Mass on Saturday. The college chose not to hold a special service on December 13 (Saturday) this year, and that’s too bad. Because December 13 is the day we remember.


The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one.

Note: The college decided to hold a memorial Mass on December 13 at 8:00am, after pleas from alumni.

13 thoughts on “What December 13th Means to Us

  1. I walked across the Providence College campus last friday on a beautiful sunny day. Returning once again to the school that I first saw 40 years ago. A school that will always hold a special place in my heart. It was midday and as always the campus had that wonderful intimate feel about it. It was also very quiet with students getting ready for their finals. Some of them smiled at me as they walked by off to study. I knew what time of year it was and I made my way towards Aquinas Hall. It had been been 37 years but it felt like yesterday when I stopped and looked up. I walked around the building and touched all three plaques with my hand. I then went over to St Dominic Chapel and said my prayer in the Aquinas Memorial Alcove. I will never forget these girls nor should anyone else.They cannot be far away………….. I was so glad and relieved to see that a mass to commemorate each one of them would be held on Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th.


  2. Like you, Martha, I was a sophomore that year at PC, but as a boy who had grown up in South Florida, that winter was really only my second REAL winter. I remember a few inches of snow falling the night after the fire, and to this day, the silence of falling snow triggers memories of that awful event.


  3. Thank you for your post and remembering those of us involved in the fire and so many affected and injured by the fire. I wish I had known there was a Mass this morning. I will attend Mass tomorrow at my local parish to remember those of us in the fire and everyone in Newtown, where I teach, on the anniversary of Sandy Hook.


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