• Laci Barry Post

Tragic Irony in Alabama Hotel Fire

Updated: May 11

“I don’t believe it,” Ava said, watching the demise of the once grand building. The dazzling chandeliers, burgundy carpet, and suited bellboys absorbed her thoughts and sickened her heart. The waste was overpowering, and she could now understand how the wreckage of war stimulated Ernie Pyle’s writing.

Songbird, Chapter 49

It is heartbreaking to me when an old building rich with history is destroyed. This story from 1944 touched my heart, and I just had to include it in Songbird. On September 15, 1944, the Alabama Hotel in Anniston, AL burned to the ground. What makes the story truly tragic is that two persons lost their lives to the fire. Ironically, one was a 17-year-old war bride visiting her husband at Ft. McClellan. While she and her family focused on the safety of her husband, it was her life that was lost too soon. Read more below:

"A policeman was shouting, “Step back,” and the crowd moved and pushed backward. The news that someone might or had lost their life lessened the importance of the structure and turned Ava’s thoughts horrifically to the people affected. She looked back up at the top floor, her eyes scanning the windows of the rooms that still existed. Is someone still in there? Who could it be?

The newspapers the next day answered all the city’s questions. Two people died, a man who attempted to lower himself to the ground with a chain of sheets and a Mrs. Violet Hemmert. Ava read and wept over the untimely obituary that interested many who never knew the young woman. She was a soldier’s wife visiting her husband at Fort McClellan. The fire not only destroyed a prized landmark, but it also emblazed the name of an unknown woman into the memories of a whole town."

Songbird, Chapter 49


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