As we age, time often wears smooth the hard edges of memory's acuity—though not when memory fixes upon a life experience of such tragedy that it brands us forever with the particulars of a certain night, a certain place, and our unforgettable role in that moment.

The voices of the Old Kenyon fire, though diminished by time, are yet many. They are impassioned, particular, and clear. They answered a summons to recall a February night now sixty years gone.

Peter Crawford '51: I don't recall phoning my family in Cleveland to say that I was all right.I do remember my intense feeling that the lives snuffed out ... represented such a waste, so many years of life, careers, family vanished in a few minutes. That obsessed me keenly for days and weeks afterward, personified by one of those dead students I knew personally.

William Porter '49: I was on a hose, holding it with several other men, shooting water into the building. One of the men was on the fire escape when another man jumped from a window nearby. He caught the man with one arm and held him. I'd been through some combat, but that was one of the more amazing things I had seen.

Richard Goldhurst '50: Past midnight, the door to my room opened and a Phi Kap yelled, "Fire." As I got out of bed, the ceiling exploded in flames. I opened our first-floor window and threw out the seven books of poetry for John Crowe Ransom's course and the many notebooks of Will Hass's pre-med courses. Outside, I was in my socks, underwear, and Ike jacket. Two Phi Kaps took me to their room where they found chinos for me, a shirt, and a pair of slippers. Gone were my paratrooper's boots and my mother's steamer trunk.

A week later, I received a pair of hand-knitted socks from a sorority in Denison University. There was a pair for every boy from Middle Kenyon ... One of these Denison angels had inserted her name and dorm address. Sol Bogan got this pair and, lo and behold, he married the girl.

Brent Olmstead '51, in a letter he wrote home to his parents the day after the fire: Bill Sesler '50 P'81 and I ran into the basement of the building to try and find a hose connection. I lost Sesler in the smoke.

I looked down the east hall of the basement and the flames were shooting my way. I got the hell out of there and fast. I went into the west portion of the basement and found three guys in bed asleep. Two of them were sound asleep. I pulled them out of the sack. The third boy was Marc Peck. He was lying on a bottom bunk and was covered up with wool blankets. His face was horribly charred and his eyes were bleeding ... I asked him how he was, and he very calmly said, "I'm OK, but I'm so goddamn cold. Leave me alone. Please tell me what happened."

Stanley Jackson '52: My roommate and I had occupied the second-floor rear room of Middle Kenyon for only a few weeks on that fateful morning when I was awakened from a sound sleep by the thud of his alighting from the upper deck of the bunk bed and heading to the door. When he opened the door, fire flames seared his hair. The hallway outside the door must have been the path of the fire's early stages, as smoke entered our room. Sensing immediate danger, an apparent panic reflex sent me rushing, clothed only in jockey undershorts, to raise the one window for exit. Positioning myself on the window sill/ledge, a survival instinct led me to an athletic leap of three to five feet to catch the iron fire escape ... I have viewed, since then, a post-fire enlarged photograph of the burned-out building shell, and consider it the grace of God that allowed me to survive the leap.

Jim Lynch '51: I joined about three others on the hose and we went in the main door. As we did, many of the windows in floors above blew out and the fire spread everywhere ...The fire came straight down from the ceiling and straight out from the walls. When the water was turned on the flames, (it) just disappeared. We turned the water on the back steps and they blew apart ... When outside, I thought I saw a student in the second-story window just west of the entrance, but when we sprayed water in the window, he never returned.