I realized long ago that I have a packrat gene in my DNA. Well, technically that would be the other way around – packrat DNA in my genes – but you get my point. I therefore try to be highly selective about embracing and retaining keepsakes of any kind. But this brick is special. It hails from the tiny town of Calumet, Michigan, near the northern extremes of the Keweenaw Peninsula by Lake Superior. It was plucked from the rubble of a demolished building by yours truly back in 1985, and I am happy to have it displayed on my living room mantel today.
So what in the world is so special about this brick? The rubble from which I claimed it was the remains of a building called the Italian Hall. It was the site of perhaps the most famous disaster in the recorded history of the Upper Peninsula, commonly known as the Italian Hall Disaster. You could look it up on Wikipedia if you like and read the basics – how 73 men, women, and children were trampled to death on Christmas Eve, 1913 when someone yelled “Fire” even though there was no fire.
So why did I care enough to take this brick, bring it home, and give it a place of honor? Did some ancestor of mine die in the pileup? No. Did I have family up there, or did someone I know have family up there? Not that I know of. And yet, the story is very personal for me.
If you’re intrigued, let me give you three links. They all lead to postings in this journal that I made in 2006, in which I detail my odd connection to the Italian Hall. Give Part 1 a try and click the other links if you’re so inclined.
A few notes for any interested parties: 1) The links in the 2006 articles themselves no longer work, so you’ll have to use the links provided here. 2) At the end of Part 3, I promise a Part 4, which I have never written.
Link to Part 1: Click here!
Link to Part 2: Click here!
Link to Part 3: Click here!