First came the explosion, ripping through the playground with a sound like every school locker on earth slamming shut at once. Then came the carnage — six people killed, half of them children, and almost a score injured. Finally, like a lingering aftershock, came sorrow, anger and the struggle to come to grips with an act senseless and evil.
On September 15, 1959, a man attempted to enroll his son in second grade at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary School, and was denied since he lacked birth and health certificates for his son. He left the school office claiming he would return the next day with the documents.
Minutes after leaving the school office, around 10:00 am, he and his son approached a teacher, Patricia Johnston, on the school playground, who had been gathering her second graders for their return to the classroom. The bomber, carrying a brown suitcase, gave her two pieces of paper to read. She was unable to understand them since the notes were illegible.
The bomber asked that the children gather around him, and as he waved the suitcase around, Johnston became alarmed upon seeing a doorbell button on the bottom of the suitcase and instructed the students to return to the building. She also instructed two students to fetch the school principal, R. E. Doty, and the school custodian, James Montgomery.
When the Principal and the Custodian arrived, the man ignored Doty’s instructions to leave the school grounds, then detonated the suitcase which contained perhaps six sticks of dynamite. The explosion claimed six lives, including both the bomber and his son; two students; custodian Montgomery and a teacher, Jennie Kolter. Of the eighteen injured, principal Doty suffered a broken leg, and two 7-year-olds each lost a leg.