Irene Dunham survived the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and both World Wars. She's outlived her husband, Laurits, who died in 1972; a son, who died at the age of 80 just a few years ago; and a bout with colon cancer that doctors believed would take her.
Dunham, who is now 109, also outlived the deadliest act of school violence in America.
Irene Babcock was 19 on May 18, 1927, a senior at Bath Consolidated School. It's quite possible the sore throat that kept her home that day saved her life.
On a Friday morning this May, she answered the door to her small, white house in north Lansing where she has lived for more than eight decades. She walks slowly and carefully now, helped by a walker.
From a chair in the corner of her living room with three high school class photos of her children hanging on the wall behind her, she recounted the "terrible day" when 38 classmates and six adults died and dozens of others were injured, including her brother.
The bombing at Bath Consolidated School likely took Andrew Kehoe months to plan and prepare for. The school board trustee and local farmer planted 1,000 pounds of dynamite in the basement of the building and, after the explosion that morning, parked his truck, loaded with more explosives, in front of what was left of the building. He detonated the vehicle, killing himself, the school superintendent, two adults and a child. Before leaving his farm, Kehoe had set fire to that too. The remains of his wife, Nellie, were found on the property.
Dunham has seldom given interviews about the bombing. For years she never talked about it.
By the 1970s, she had shared the story of arriving at the school shortly after the bombing with her family. At times, she said, it felt like the world forgot about Bath's tragedy.
But Dunham thinks about May 18, 1927, "quite often."
“I wish I could really tell you, dear, how awful it was," she said.