“Bring All the Priests”


Every year we remember, because we can’t ever forget. In the very early morning hours of Tuesday, December 13, 1977, a fire broke out on the 4th floor North of Aquinas Hall at Providence College. Ten young women died as a result of the fire (seven that night, three later succumbed to their injuries), and colleges across the country reviewed their fire safety procedures immediately thereafter.

Two years ago, I wrote this piece in reflection of that night, and reposted it last year. Recently, I read an article online, reprinted in the Bryant College (now University) newspaper from an original article in The Providence Journal, an article I’m sure my parents hid from my sister and me. It said little that I didn’t already know; unfortunately, most of us at PC were all too aware of what transpired that night, even if we weren’t witnesses to the horror.

What struck me in the article, though, was the call from Fr. Ralph Hall to Rev. Aloysius Begley, OP, then-Prior of the college. When Fr. Begley’s telephone rang around three in the morning, Fr. Hall said, “Bring all the priests. Bring all the sacred oils.” Fr. Hall knew. It was a quick fire, extinguished in just 38 minutes, but deadly.

At this time of year, I think about the girls who died. I remember the “Jersey girls” I met freshman year who were the epitome of cool: Katy Andresakes, one of the nicest and friendliest people on campus, who introduced me to Dan Fogelberg’s music. Kim and Terry and Joanne and Alice and Ellen, who survived but who will always carry the memories with them. The 4th floor girls who graduated, married, and had children, some of whom attended PC (it’s a family tradition, you know).

Life is filled with moments – some so happy you swear you’re dreaming, some so tragic you wonder why, for years. Today, I’ll say ten small prayers for the girls of Aquinas Hall. And I’ll listen to this song by Dan Fogelberg


The Survivors of 9/11

According to a friend who would know these things, 47,000 people worked at the WTC and didn’t die. About 26,000 worked at the Pentagon. Every year on this day, we remember and mourn those who were killed, at least we should, and think of the family members left behind – without a spouse, parent, sibling, partner, friend, co-worker.

But the ones who lived through September 11, 2001 – what about them, eleven years later? How have they coped? How do they reconcile the fact that they were spared from death while others around them perished? Many of them struggle, each day, eleven years later.

There can be tremendous feelings of guilt associated with surviving what kills others. Men and women experience it after a war. Some of my classmates at Providence College experienced it after a terrible fire just before Christmas 1977 killed ten young women.

So today, please remember the nearly 3,000 people who died. And don’t forget the ones who lived, the ones who just try to get through today, and every day, hoping to find the reason. I wish them peace.