Lynn Everett (LE), Maureen Krekian (MK) and Joanne Krekian (JK)
MK: It was 1944, July the 6th, very hot day. I was eleven years old. I was supposed to go to the circus with the lady next door and her daughter. I went and knocked on the door and they weren’t there, they had already left without me. Now, I had never been to the circus before. And there was no way I was going to go home and tell my grandmother that I was alone, that would never had been permitted. So I just ran up the street and went to the circus by myself.
Announcer: ”The Flying Wallendas,” world famous aerial act, were performing on their trapezes when the fire broke.
MK: I remember someone yelling and seeing a big ball of fire near the top of the tent, and this ball of fire just got bigger and bigger and bigger.
Announcer: An eyewitness told us it appeared almost like spontaneous combustion. So quickly was the big tent a mass of flames.
MK: By that time everyone was panicking. The exit was blocked with the cages that the animals were brought in and out with. There was a man taking kids and flinging them up and over that cage to get them out. And I was sitting up–probably about halfway up–on the bleachers, and jumped down, it was all straw underneath. And there was a young man–a kid–he had a pocketknife. And he slit the tent, took my arm, and pulled me out. And then I turned around and grabbed a kid, it was a little girl, and pulled her out.
Announcer: The bleachers were burned to a crisp; sixty bodies were removed from that spot alone.
MK: My uncle was out in the backyard of our home. We lived on the same street as were the circus was held. And he was sawing wood, and he saw the reflection of the fire in his saw. He went running around, trying to find me and of course he couldn’t get anywhere near it by that time.
Announcer: The parents and relatives who were standing about not knowing what had become of their families.
MK: I came running, out from the circus tent, all the way home. I could still see my uncle. He was so mad. Y’know how you get when you have a child and you think they’re lost, and you want to kill them and kiss them at the same time?
Announcer: The spot where the tent had been was a charred mess of poles and wires.
MK: The circus never came back to Hartford until the seventies, and then they never came back in a tent again. But I’ve never had desire to go.
LE: What if that boy heard this interview, what would you like to say to him?
MK: Oh, I’d throw my arms around him and thank him. I wouldn’t be seventy-four years old today. I’d be long gone.
Announcer: It’s a tragedy that Hartford will never forget and that everyone in Hartford hopes will never be repeated.