â€śInsanity, and the death wish, lurked deep in his murky, twisted mind.â€?
- The Houston Chronicle September 16th, 1959
On the morning of September 15th, 1959, a mysterious man entered Poe Elementary School in Houston, Texas with his seven year-old son saying they had just moved into town and he wanted to enroll him. The school’s principle met the man and his son in her office, and began the process of enrollment. During the interview, the principle became suspicious that the man didn’t have any identification, and didn’t seem to know the name of the school his son was previously enrolled in, the name of the town or street where they previously lived, or where they actually lived now… he only seemed to know that they came from New Mexico, and that he worked in the tile industry. As his behavior and speech became more and more erratic, she became alarmed and thought it would be best if he was off the school grounds. She told him that since he didn’t have the proper identification papers for his son, he would have to return another time with them. She watched him as he and his son left the building. On his way out, he approached one of the teachers who was bringing a class of students into the building from recess. He handed her two hand-written notes (quoted verbatim below) and instructed her to gather as many children around him as possible in a circle, and began talking about the “…will of God.” The penmanship on the notes was so bad that she couldn’t make out what they said. She noticed that he was carrying a cloth-covered suitcase which he began slowly shaking (and referred to as ‘the power of God in a suitcase’), and his son was carrying a large paper bag with a doorbell-style button attached to wires hanging out of the bottom. She instructed all of her students to go inside the building as more faculty members, including two other teachers, the custodian and the principal, joined her in trying to order him off school grounds. The two largest groups of students who had been outside were ushered into the building, along with the original teacher that the man had given the notes to. In the ensuing awkward scuffle, the man began waving the suitcase around and saying that he had to “…follow the children.” Suddenly and without warning, both containers were detonated, causing a massive explosion that blew a six inch-deep crater in the asphalt playground where they had been standing. The blast killed one teacher, the custodian, two seven year-old male students, the man and his son. Over the next few days, a bedlam of law enforcement, investigators, media, mourners and gawkers descended upon Houston. Later that week, the man’s right arm was discovered on the roof of a two story building across the street from the school. Although it was not the first school disaster on record (the New London School gas explosion in New London, Texas, 1937 was), it was the first intentional school “terrorist” attack in U.S. history. A detailed account of the event, as well as what subsequent investigations uncovered, can be found here (scroll down a bit), as well as here.
Please do not get excite over this order Iâ€™m giving you. In this suitcase you see in my hand is fill to the top with high explosive. I mean high high. Please believe me when I say I have 2 more (illegible) that are set to go off at two times. I do not believe I can kill and not kill what is around me, an I mean my son will go. Do as I say an no one will get hurt. Please.
P. H. Orgeron
Do not get the Police department yet, Iâ€™ll tell you when.—
Please do not get excite over this order Iâ€™m giving you. In this suitcase you see in my hand it fill to the top with high explosive. Please do not make me push this button that all I have to do. And also have two 2 more cases (illegible) high explosive that are set to go off at a certain time at three different places so it will more harm to kill me, so do as I say and no one will get hurt. An I would like to talk about god while waiting for my wife.