Marking its 100th anniversary, the Halifax Explosion is Canada’s largest maritime disaster and one of the most significant events in the country’s war history. Sadly, the events of this day are often omitted from curriculum* in other parts of the country, despite the impact it had from coast to coast.
An estimated 2000 people were killed, countless others were injured, houses and businesses were destroyed, and life in this city changed in a flash. The cause? A munitions ship (the SS Mont Blanc) collided with the SS Imo, causing a blast that could be felt miles away. And if this wasn’t bad enough, a snowstorm hit that same evening, placing even more stresses to an already challenging situation. There are loads of sites, books, and other platforms to learn more about this event in detail, so I’ll leave this to you to investigate further. There’s even a few good tunes to be found!
Today I had fully intended to head over to Fort Needham Memorial Park to participate in the official memorial. But I just couldn’t get organized enough to do so. Instead, I prepped Gertie for her daily morning walk, and we made our way down to the Dartmouth waterfront - the next best place, I figured.
As we reached the edge of the boardwalk, the cannon sounded from atop Citadel Hill, and our minute of silence began. The ships in the harbour blew their horns, which presented an even more eerie mood to the day. It felt heavy. And it was all sort of overwhelming.
I thought of my paternal grandfather and how if he had been in a different place that morning I probably wouldn’t be here. I thought of my grandmother’s friend and infamous survivor, Barbara Orr, and of all the wonderful tales Grammy has told me about her over the years**. I thought of the kindness of those who came from near and far to lend a helping hand, and how recent disasters have typically been shown the same sense of humanity.
And as I move forward with the day, I will continue to reflect on how lucky I am and try to focus on the good that people can do. I will also take a few minutes to think about another horrific event that took place on this day and which marks the 28th anniversary of the events at École Polytechnique. This day is now recognized as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It’s a big day for Canadian history. It’s a sad day. But it’s also a day to consider and envision a way forward, towards a more peaceful world, while embracing the gravity of both of these events.
-the Orange Canadian
*Not that we need to know every historical detail of our country, but one of this magnitude should certainly be mentioned at the very least!
**I even have some of her artwork still - pieces that my mother cherished.