This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Before Columbine and Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas, there was Our Lady of Angels.
On Dec. 1, 1958, a fire broke out at the parochial school on Chicago’s West Side, killing 92 students and three nuns. The catastrophe at Our Lady of Angels shocked the country and spurred action, leading to the proliferation of fire drills, sprinklers, and other protocols that have so far helped prevent another similar event from occurring in America.
Nearly two decades after the infamous massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, why haven’t ghastly school shootings gone the way of ghastly school fires?
For Aaron Vanatta and other school safety experts, it’s a vexing question.
“You thought you’d see a lot more change a lot quicker,” said Vanatta, a school police officer in the Quaker Valley School District outside Pittsburgh and a regional director for the National Association of School Resource Officers. “But it didn’t really happen that way.”