There Was No Laughter As Flames Gutted School
By HAROLD WHITTEMORE - Observer Dispatch
Other investigators had said yesterday that he believed the Sunday night blaze had been "touched off."
Ilion --- "Everyone makes a joke about the school burning. When it actually happens, no one is laughing."
This hushed comment came from somewhere in the middle of a knot of shivering Ilion teen-agers. They were watching silently as roaring flames ate through the heart of Ilion High School.
"There goes my home room," a freshman pointed to billowing black smoke pouring from shattered windows on the third floor.
"And my locker with all my books..."
"And my English report. The teacher will never believe I had it done."
WORD of the disaster spread almost as rapidly as the wind-driven flames.
Breathless high school students chattered like magpies when they first arrived at the scene. But, at the impact of the nightmarish scene hit, their nervous comments tapered off.
They lapsed into silence, puctuated only by the crackling of the flames, the roaring of the wind, the hoarse shouts of firemen and the crash of breaking glass.
Farther back in the shadows many of the parents of the students also were watching silently. Most of them went to school in the "old building," where the fire started.
One Ilion senior, an honor student, stood shivering almost uncontrollably. The flames were reflected in her tear-stained eyes.
"What will this do to graduation?" she asked, over and over. No one answered.
"What'll we do in the morning, come to school?" a lad asked.
"What for," his companion replied. "There won't be much here to come to."
The first lad wasn't silenced so easily. "Do you suppose this will mean we'll have to go
to school all summer?"
The others were silent. "Let's get a milkshake," one of them finally said. They moved away.
Word of the death of Fireman Burt Seymour whispered through the hundreds at the scene.
"Gee, that's Mike's Dad," one boy said quietly. There were no more jokes.
This morning a few teenagers stood in front of the smoking building, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched against the driving wind.
They looked lost. Everything was suddenly different.