HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–July 6, 2019, marks 75 years since one of Connecticut’s darkest days; The Hartford circus fire of 1944.
Nearly 170 people, mostly women and children, were killed in minutes during a matinee performance. Thousands were under the big top, and few survivors are left.
The Hartford community gathered on the fire site Saturday to keep the memories of the victims alive with a ceremony at the fire site.
They announced all 168 names and ages of the deceased victims, and laid white roses on the memorial plaque.
Survivors also shared what they remember about trying to get out alive.
Harry Lichtenbaum was a survivor and told the crowd, “I could see the people clamoring to get out. I said ‘let’s go back. Let’s go back and help them’ and we took a step forward, but it was impossible, the heat was too strong from the fire.”
The big tent was covered in paraffin wax thinned with gasoline. At the time, it was a popular waterproofing method. The cause of the fire remains a mystery, but it was possibly started by a tossed cigarette.
Hartford’s fire chief told News 8 this tragedy changed laws across the country that protect us at large gatherings today.