December 7

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
December 7, 1946. To most Americans, December 7 is remembered as Pearl Harbor Day, but in Atlanta, Georgia, the date has other dark memories. On that night hundreds of people, guests of the Winecoff Hotel, slept in their rooms secure in the knowledge that the hotel was fireproof. Like the "unsinkable Titanic," everyone believed in it, everyone trusted the "fireproof construction" and no one lay awake to wonder "What if a fire should break out tonight?"
But quietly, unnoticed, a little fire was smoldering, smoking, growing, until suddenly the great flames broke forth.
What of the fireproof construction then? It didn't mean it couldn't burn, only that the fire would be "contained" in that one building-and would burn even more fiercely inside the "fireproof" walls.
The alarm was given, and then it was sirens—sirens—sirens as fire engines raced to the scene from all the surrounding area. But their ladders were too short, their hoses could not reach, and the fire raged on unchecked.
Because the building was considered fireproof there was little provision for fire escapes or emergency evacuation. People who rushed to their windows saw only the street as much as fifteen floors below, but with smoke and flames at their doors and panic in their hearts they leaped—leaped to death on the street far below.
An airman who had served in World War II said it was "like men bailing out of a burning plane"—but there were no parachutes.
It was the most disastrous hotel fire in American history: 121 deaths. Yet some were saved. Not those who blindly leaped from the windows; not those who dashed into the fire to try to fight their way through; not those who hid in closets and corners until smothered in the smoke. No, there was no way to escape by their own efforts.
Outside the hotel brave men forgot their own safety and rushed into the office building across the alley. Up—up, as high as they could go, and then with boards, ladders, anything that could reach across the narrow opening, they crossed into the tumult and danger with hands outstretched to the terrified people at the windows.
Those who trusted, those who grasped those rescuing hands and were guided back across the perilous boards, were saved. Out of the dark pall of smoke they emerged into the clean white offices of the doctors and dentists across the way. Saved!
Rescue had to come from outside the hotel, outside the fire.
Aren't we in much the same case? No effort of ours can lift us from this doomed world, no struggle can gain the safety of heaven above, no hiding place is safe. But there is a Savior. There is One who can come where we are and lead us to safety. The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and no one else, no other way, can avail.
The rescuers only risked their lives to save others; the Lord Jesus gave His life for us. "For when we were yet without strength... Christ died for the ungodly.... While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:6, 86For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)
8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)