Flutterby™! : He Became What He Beheld

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He Became What He Beheld

2005-06-15 12:41:30.966905+00 by petronius 1 comments

A strange, sad story from the Chicago Tribune: David Cowan is a former fireman and local author who has written several books about historical fires in Chicago. Amongst them is considered the definitive work on a devasatating 1958 school fire that killed 92 children and 3 nuns. Over the last few years Cowan lost his fire dpartment job and had his marriage fall apart. He has now been arrested for arson for torching an outbuilding near a church that employed him as a custodian. Ironically, the school fire he wrote of was started by a young, troubled firebug.

Now this would be a small story, except that it resonates with me on a number of levels. I was a third grader at the school on the day of the fire, and I have met Cowan on a couple of occasions, once at a get-together for fire survivors and again at a book signing. Like many firemen he seems to have started with a fascination and personal enmity for fire, which apparently has bled over into obsession., and finally arson. When do interests mutate into pathologies, and how does a curiousity project into seeing fire as an answer for a disintigrating life? Fortunately no one was hurt in this latest blaze, but original tragedy keeps destroying people even after 47 years.

[ related topics: Books Journalism and Media Art & Culture Public Transportation ]

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#Comment Re: made: 2005-06-15 20:39:11.891862+00 by: Dan Lyke

Wow. The abyss stares back.

Don't want to overanalyze it, but I took up rock climbing partially to deal with issues around altitude, and I can imagine the escalation in fascination until, at a personal nadir, the fascination got out of control. And it sounds like he'd found his depths...