The below letter was written by Janis Jaquith, the wife of Harry Landers, and is shared with permission:
The anniversary of the Sept. 26, 1969 Landers fire is approaching. Many thanks to all who have stepped forward and helped me and others in our family to “get to know” the family members we never got to meet. I’m working on a manuscript about the fire, and your input is priceless. In time, we will have a book that will allow the new generations of Landers children to know the aunts, uncles, and grandmother that we have lost.
This is a work in progress, and your continued sharing of information is most welcome. If you knew Nancy, Davey, Billy, Kevin, Lisa, or KC Landers, I hope you’ll pass along your observations and anecdotes. Post them here, or Facebook message me, or email me: Janis (at) radioessays (dot) com. If you’d prefer to talk on the phone, send me your phone number and I’ll call you.
One part of this book will focus on the effect this tragedy had on those beyond the family: friends, neighbors, classmates, firefighters, teachers…including people who didn’t know the family but were nevertheless affected by what happened. I’ve been hearing from people whose faith in God was shaken by this, people who turned to self-destructive behaviors, maybe because they didn’t know what to do with their grief and anger.
If you would be willing to share your experience and insights with me, I would be most grateful. I keep thinking that this fire was Wilmington’s 9/11, with reverberations far beyond the immediate family.
Bear in mind that it is the strong suspicion of police and fire officials that this fire was not accidental, that someone did this on purpose. That realization has come decades after the fire, but it is not too late for justice. There is a “person of interest” in this case who is also a “person of interest” in a March 30, 1974 fire in Wakefield, in which three teenagers lost their lives. Police in Wakefield are actively pursuing that case.
Maybe you noticed someone in the Clark Street neighborhood the day or night before the fire (Sept. 25th), someone who didn’t belong there, and you’ve always wondered about that? Or you overheard a conversation, or heard someone bragging about starting the fire, but you thought they were making it up, and couldn’t possibly have done such a thing?
Whatever it is, I urge you to come forward with whatever information you may have. It could be a key piece of the puzzle, and you may not know it. Please contact me, or the Wilmington Police Department. Retired Detective Chris Neville has been helping us with this, so you could pass information along to him.
I’m posting a link to the Boston Globe article on this subject from 2013, to refresh everyone’s memory.
Again, thank you all so much. I can’t do this without you.
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