A Brief One from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper, followed by a Statement from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Posted December 6th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
One hundred years ago – on the morning of December 6th, 1917 – five-year-old Kaye McLeod was playing with her dolls inside her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia when a monstrous explosion slammed her to the floor.
The explosion was triggered by the collision two ships, one of them loaded with munitions on their way the First World War killing fields of Europe, in the nearby waters of Halifax Harbour.. Kaye McLeod died this past October at age 105, the last living survivor of what remains, to this day, one of the most destructive man-made disasters in recorded history.
Up to the time of her death, Kaye McLeod’s long life was a reminder that even though this horrific event, that killed close to 2,000 people and injured 9,000 , occurred a century ago, the sight, sound and burnt and rotting smell of it still loomed in the memory of someone living and breathing among us – a reminder that in the larger scheme of things, “the great Halifax explosion,” as it has been called, didn’t really happen all that long ago at all.
According to a recent feature article in The Globe and Mail about two new books on the explosion, one would have to look at the devastation left on the ground in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused by the atomic bombs dropped over those Japanese cities near the end of the Second World War for anything resembling the destruction resulting from that blast in Halifax Harbour a hundred years ago today.
That same Globe and Mail article notes that Ernest Barss, a Nova Scotia native who survived those First World War killing fields and was one of the first to survey the destruction left over from the explosion, reported later that what he saw was actually worse than anything he remembered on those war grounds in Europe.
“There was not one stick or stone standing on another. Every house and building had just crumpled up and the whole was a raging mass of flames,” Barss wrote.
In a spirit of compassion and friendship between neighbours, the people of Boston, Massachusetts filled ships with medical supplies and other assistance, and were among the first to arrive on the scene to help the survivors.
At a time when you almost don’t want to turn on the television news because so much of the news we get these days is depressing, it was good to watch CBC’s ‘The National’ news broadcast late this November and see thousands of people gathered in a park in Boston for the lighting of a Christmas Tree that came to the city from the people of Halifax as a gesture of thanks for helping all of those years ago.
It is means a great deal to see that kind of warm and friendly hands reaching across borders in an age when Trump and his army and anger and hate work so hard to drive us apart.
Now here is a statement Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released this December 6th on the Halifax explosion –
Statement by the Prime Minister on the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, December 6, 2017, Ottawa, Ontario
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion:
“Today, we mark the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.
“On the morning of December 6, 1917, in the midst of the First World War, the munitions ship SS Mont-Blanc and the freighter SS Imo collided in the narrows of Halifax Harbour. The SS Mont-Blanc caught fire and erupted in an explosion that levelled the north end of Halifax – changing the city forever.
“It was the largest human-made explosion before the atomic bomb, and remains one of the deadliest disasters in Canadian history. Nearly 2,000 people were killed in the blast, including hundreds of children. Thousands more were gravely injured. Half the city’s population was left without shelter in the immediate aftermath.
“The tragedy devastated Halifax, but Nova Scotians, like Vincent Coleman, responded with resilience and courage. A railway dispatcher, Coleman gave his life to warn incoming trains of the danger. Soldiers, sailors, police, firefighters, and hundreds of civilians rushed to the disaster zone to help the injured and rescue those trapped under debris. Communities across the province and country offered support, and help poured in from friends beyond our borders – from Massachusetts to Australia. Together, Nova Scotians recovered, rebuilt, and emerged stronger than before.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I invite Canadians to honour the memory of the victims of this terrible tragedy and those who came to Halifax’s aid. As the 150th anniversary of Confederation draws to a close, let us reflect on this powerful example of Canadians overcoming hardship and tragedy with perseverance and compassion.”
To read a review and feature article published this December 2nd, 2017 in The Globe and Mail on a new book about two new books about Halifax explosion, click on – https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/book-reviews/on-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-halifax-explosion-two-new-books-examine-the-disasters-place-in-canadasmythology/article37123260/ .
To read an obituary published this November 2017 in The Globe and Mail on the death of the last surviving witness of the Halifax explosion, click on – https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/centenarian-kaye-chapman-survived-halifax-explosion/article36982033/ .
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