To the editor:
I have been reading with interest your coverage of The Great Salem Fire. I notice that you have not published any commentary from children. I had a favorite neighbor, Agnes Bright, now deceased, who told me a tale back around when the 50th anniversary was publicized. Agnes told me how frightened and traumatized she was by the fire. I estimate she was perhaps about 5 years old when the fire hit, but I never asked Agnes what her exact age was or what kind of school she was in on June 24, 1914.
Agnes told me she was “in school” when The Great Fire hit Salem. Her teacher took all the children in the class and told them to hold hands and follow her. Her teacher marched them in step all the way to the Beverly-Salem bridge and across the bridge to Beverly. Agnes remembered her teacher’s name, but I cannot. They all sat in a group with her teacher on the Beverly shore and watched the pitiful sight as Salem burned. Agnes told me she and all the other children took turns crying because they did not know if their parents and family members would be dead, or if their houses would be burned to ashes. Agnes said it was a terrible, frightening time that she would never forget. After a long time, Beverly citizens brought the children something to eat, and after a longer time, there was word that some relative had come to claim them. Agnes told me she was fortunate and her family was safe and her family home did not burn.
I thought my friend Agnes, God rest her dear soul, would not mind if I shared her story.
Beatrice Hering Heinze