‘I couldn’t see the bulb and I struck a match and put it on and then I stepped away,” said Stanley Tomaszewski, a 16-year-old bus boy. “Then all of a sudden the palm tree seemed to take fire. . . . I was standing on top of the bench when I saw the fire. Some lady said, ‘look, the palm tree is on fire.’ I tried to beat it out with my hands.”
With those words, Tomaszewski provided an account of the opening moments of the Cocoanut Grove fire, one of the most devastating building blazes in American history that saw 492 people killed in Boston on Nov. 28, 1942.