Hyde Park in the Morning Light #6, The Children of the Hyde Park Fire

As some of my readers know, I was gone from St. Louis for a good solid decade, from August 1996 to December 2006. Up in Kirksville for undergrad, I rarely knew what was happening back in St. Louis, back when the internet was still in its infancy. I had never heard of this fire, and a little research revealed that they were the victims of revenge, when a man, who had been assaulted by a man and woman who believed he had robbed them the week before, returned with gasoline, starting a fire that killed those six children. He’s in prison now, for a long time, but that doesn’t bring them back. The man and woman he sought to kill? They weren’t even home at the time. A vacant lot on Salisbury Street (Update: a reader corrected me that the building is still standing and is now renovated) and this black granite plaque is the only physical reminder of that horrible crime. A Post-Dispatch editorial from the time spoke well on the incident (bold text my addition):

In the silent reverence of their grief, some also marvel at the sense of community and acceptance around them, in a city neighborhood often known only for its violence and poverty. They know and comfort each other. They hug and mourn together. And all of St. Louis – a metropolitan area that celebrates its distance from places like Hyde Park – mourns with them.

What if we mourned this way every time a child died in our city? What if we comforted city children this way every time they lost someone to a violent death? What if we agonized this way every time an 18-year-old city student like Mr. Stokes quit school and turned to crime?

Many city kids face violence and death daily, with no memorials to mark their pain, no teddy bears to console them. What if we channeled our grief over the six Hyde Park children who died into compassion for their city classmates, neighbors and friends – the children of our city who are dying slowly, day by day?

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Julie says:

    I was young when this fire happened. So young I really forgot about it until this post. I didn’t know the divisions of St. Louis then but I knew how terrible it was and how children even younger than me weren’t safe. Thank you for the post and the needed reminder.

  2. Brooke Petryka says:

    Very interesting read….I was unaware that this happened…

  3. Brandon R. says:

    The building where the fire occurred is now the Cornerstone Cafe on Salisbury and Blair. I remember my young mind (I was only about 10 or 11) asking how could the kids have died when the fire station was across the street. My parents took me to the memorial as we lived only a few blocks away. Such a tragedy.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Ah, thank you, Brandon. So the building was not destroyed in the fire after all.

  4. Shannon says:

    Danielle was my bestfriend. I think of her often and miss her daily. We were only in the 4th grade at Clay Elementary at the time and neither of us should have lost each other at such a young age. I still remember her face, smile, and sunflower dress she liked to wear. She’s the reason I became a teacher today. School was our safe place from our crazy home lives. I love you Danielle. RIP

  5. Bryant T. says:

    I remember this fire I was also in the forth grade at Clay Elementary at the time I remember the marmoreal and how hard I cried and I did not even know them. It is still sad even too this day. A few years ago I drove around there and I did not see the playground that we used to play on and I wondered if it was still there. This is the only article I have seen in this.

  6. Cynthia says:

    I ate at beavers pizza almost every Friday & it was horrible when this Happened my moma & I used to sit in the dinner & eat & I would see thoughs children playing out side all the time.i wonder wheres the parents now ?

  7. Tauna says:

    I remember this fire. Because my children and I had just moved into a 2 family flat right next to the grey building on Malincrodt Alls I could remember is unpacking and I hear all sirens come to a stop I ran outside to the corner only to see a couple fire fighters on a ladder trying they best to go to the window to try to get the children out but were forced back because the flames came shooting out. Rest In Heaven to the babies.

  8. Princess Rucker says:

    Ill never forget this tragedy. I remember this day very well, I was there. My daughter lived across from these children and I lived on Salisbury St. , right across from the Hyde Park Fire Dept. I knew these children personally and their families.
    The fire was like an inferno! I along with Danielles brother, Quentin , stood and cried together, we both ran to back of building and the fire was all over. Everyone in the neighborhood , the school teachers from Clay School, the Mayor, (Clarence Harmon), Churches, Red Cross, Clergy, all came together to help the families. I stood with family members, trying to console. I was there til the end when each one of these Angels were brought out. Our Community came together as family should! Still today, at times this is overwhelming for me. I continue to pray for all of our children and families. Never Forgotten, Our Hyde Park Angels.

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