by Sam Porcello

06 Jul 1944, Hartford, Connecticut, USA — Survivors watch as smoke rises from the the big main tent of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, in Hartford, Connecticut, which went up in flames causing the deaths of 127 people with many more injured. At left is the menagerie tent which escaped destruction. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS


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Mrs. Grady was really helpful and supportive, and provided me with photos and additional information about her family. She also referred me to Robert John Titus.  I was fascinated to learn how the Grady brothers, who received some basic medical training in the Navy, were inspired to begin a full time ambulance company following the Hartford Circus Fire.  They saw a need for the service, and became only the second private ambulance company to serve Hartford.

More importantly, Aetna Ambulance was the first private ambulance company in Hartford to provide formal medical training to its employees.  The Gradys didn’t stop there, reaching out beyond Hartford to help train other ambulance services.  Mrs. Evans wrote to me that:

“My Aunt Jean was a member of the Red Cross and was a medical instructor. She helped state wide ambulance employees including Ambulance Service of Manchester, Wethersfield and Rocky Hill Volunteer Ambulance Service members retain their licenses…as Emergency Medical Technicians.”