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Survivor Of Deadly Niagara Falls Fire Writes Book About Her Experiences

10:43 PM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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NIAGARA FALLS, NY - A woman who survived the deadliest fire in the history of Niagara Falls, has now written a book about her experiences.

The blaze took place more than 50 years ago and claimed the lives of seven of her siblings.

On November 16th 1957, 18 people, including 15 children, died when flames swept though the Moonglow Hotel, a tenement in the city's north end.

Most of the victims came from two families.

The Ewings, several of whom are buried Oakwood Cemetery in the Falls, and the Reids, who lost seven children.

All of the victims are memorialized on a plaque at Niagara Falls Fire Headquarters

Now one of the survivors, Annie Reid Chivers, has written a powerful memoir, "Out of the Fire, Life from the Ashes", about her journey growing up without the loved ones she can barely remember, and her remaining family's struggle pick up the pieces.

"It helped to bring them to life a little bit in my own mind, because I don't really remember them," said Chivers, who was four years old at the time of the fire.

Now a retired Marine Corps Sergeant, Chivers told WGRZ-TV that it was also a way to honor those who died.

"But, it was also cathartic because I cried , I laughed, I had a lot of emotion s going on as I wrote it," Chivers told Two On Your Side during a telephone interview from her North Carolina home. "There was at times bitterness...so many emotions as I was writing," she said

The owner of the Moonglow Hotel, which stood on Allen Avenue, was eventually tried and convicted of manslaughter in connection with the fire, after investigators concluded the conditions of the building, made escaping the flames difficult or impossible.

Historians note that if there was a silver lining to this dark tragedy, it was that the deadly fire sparked what is today NY State's uniform fire safety codes.

Chivers' siblings are buried in an unmarked section of graves at Riverdale Cemetery in Lewiston. She recalled visiting there in 2007, when she returned to Niagara Falls on the 50th anniversary of the fire, and met some of the firefighters who responded to the horrific fire.

"I stood at that ground and I collapsed...I was sobbing so hard. I didn't think that after 50 years that could happen, but it did, and I still get emotional about it," she said.

Chivers was saved from the flames by an older sister, who also escaped after tossing Chivers from a second floor window.

When she began writing the book, that same sister was her chief collaborator on the project, until she died a short time after they began. Chivers shelved her writing for a time, uncertain if she could carry on. However, inspired by the memory of her sister, she continued.

Chivers plans to return to Niagara Falls in July to sign copies of her book, which is currently available at the Book Corner on Main Street.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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