Almost 100 years after the Halifax Explosion, a family that lost touch after the tragedy is planning to reunite in the city.
“My Aunt Dude, who lost her husband and her 10 children, she would say the names of every one of the 46 that died,” recalls Diane Walker.
Walker says that’s one of her earliest memories of hearing about the explosion that killed 46 members of the Jackson family – more than two-thirds of her family.
After the tragedy in 1917, Walker’s grandmother and great-uncle moved to California in search of a fresh start. But her grandmother would always call Halifax home.
“After nine years she said ‘I want to go home. I’m over the sadness of the explosion, losing all our family. I’m over the shock and trauma. I want my kids to be brought up in Canada.’”
Walker’s grandmother moved back to Halifax, but her brother stayed in California. After she passed away, their families lost touch, until now.
“My niece called me and said ‘quick, go out and buy a newspaper. There’s an article that says California family looking for the descendants of the Halifax Explosion and I think it’s the family you’ve been looking for.’”
The article led Walker to her long-lost relatives in California and, almost a century after the tragedy, they plan to reunite in Halifax to learn about their families and the event that separated them.
“We need to get the family trees done … that’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve been typing family trees,” says Walker. “They sent me the family tree from California, so that will be incorporated.”
With the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion just two years away, historians are hoping that younger generations can still comprehend the impact it had on the community.
“I want to see lots of things going on in the North End, nowhere else, just in the North End, just to say this happened on a particular day, and I think that would really awaken it to young people to see living history,” says local historian Blair Beed.
Walker hopes for that too, both on the anniversary of the tragedy, and also when her family reunites next month. Meanwhile, she has chosen a fitting theme for the event that will bring her family back together.
“We’re calling our reunion ‘We Rise Again.’”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Priya Sam