Monday, October 30, 2006

Another Unsung Hero of the Winecoff Hotel Fire Has Been Discovered!

Angie and John McKuhen visit her parents' farm near Tifton, Georgia. -- c. 1946

John McKuhen, 80 years old and now living in Florida, was a 20-year-old military policeman stationed at Ft. McPherson in Atlanta when he and five other MPs were called to the Winecoff well before daybreak on Saturday December 7, 1946. They were assigned to recover victims from the still smoldering rooms of the hotel.
Working in pairs, McKuhen and the MPs made trip after trip up the winding stairway – at times, through knee deep water coming down the stairs. He recalls firefighters lining the stairway assisting people up and down the treacherous stairway.
“I guess we started from the third floor – they may have had the third floor cleared – from the fourth floor up, I remember,” he said.
“We’d go into a room ... of course we couldn’t go in until the firemen had put the fire out down that particular hallway, and as they would get the fire out and give us a signal, then we’d go in and start bringing the people out and that’s the way it worked all the way up.”
“I remember one instance, I think it was the tenth floor. I went up with a fireman on that trip. It was down the hall, I don’t remember what the room number was but I remember the room was on the right-hand side of the hall. We went into this room, and a man and his wife and two children, a boy and a girl, probably in their early teens, and the children were laying on the bed on their stomach with their heads laying toward their parents and had their hands in the position of prayer. The parents were knelt by the bed with their hands in the position of prayer. I assume that's the way that they perished,” said McKuhen.
“That's the one thing that really stood with me. It was an experience that you never forget.”
John McKuhen (right) at the fire scene

Following the Winecoff fire, building codes around the world were modernized and upgraded to enhance fire safety. Each victim recovered had a silent message for the world: "This needn't happen to you." Because there were so many of them, 119, their silent messages were heard: in Congress, State Legislatures and Parliaments.
John McKuhen was discharged from the Army ten days after the fire. He re-enlisted ten months later, again as a military policeman, and served another twenty years.
“Being in the military police, you see plane crashes and car crashes and so forth, but I've never seen nothing that would affect you like the Winecoff fire.”

Labels: ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home