|Birth: ||Sep. 18, 1948|
|Death: ||Dec. 1, 1958|
Ten year old victim of the Our Lady of Angels Chicago School fire which claimed the lives of 92 elementary school children and 3 nuns.
In death, this little boy in particular, as well as 91 of his classmates and three of his teachers, became icons for school fire safety throughout the globe. On December 1, 1958, a fire erupted at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic elementary school in Chicago, Illinois. Before the day was over 92 children and three nuns had died in the fire.
A photograph of Chicago fireman Richard Scheidt carrying the lifeless body of this 5th grader, John Michael Jajkowski, Jr., out of the smoldering remains of the school, was used by Life Magazine on page one of their article about the fire. That photograph was later adopted as the centerpiece of a fire safety & prevention poster which was distributed throughout the world. The image of John Michael Jajkowski, Jr.'s death thus became both a sobering reminder of the Chicago tragedy as well as the catalyst for enhanced fire safety efforts worldwide. Schools across the United States, as well as in many foreign countries, used the poster to launch local fire safety campaigns. Within a year of the tragedy, over 16,000 schools in the US made structural changes to improve fire safety. More thousands of schools, which had previously practiced fire drills on a sporadic basis, if at all, implemented stringent requirements for regularly scheduled drills – a practice which continues today, over 50 years later.
Although it is impossible to say how many lives may have been indirectly saved by the image of young John's tragic death, and the safety campaign designed around it, there is no doubt, in the years following it contributed to countless instances of children evacuated from schools in a successful, orderly manner during times of crisis. America never again suffered such a school tragedy.
In life, John Michael Jajkowski, Jr. was not able to achieve his dream of serving his fellow man by becoming a priest, but in death he served mankind in immeasurable ways.
John B. Jajkowski (1926 - 1989)
Saint Adalbert Catholic Cemetery
Created by: Eric Johansson
Record added: Dec 01, 2000
Find A Grave Memorial# 5105631