People in the Halifax area gathered at three separate ceremonies Friday to mark the 96th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.

The work and school day was just beginning for most Haligonians when a French cargo ship full of explosives collided with a Norwegian ship in the narrows of the Halifax Harbour on Dec. 6, 1917.

“Suddenly, their attention was caught by news of a collision in the harbour. One ship was on fire,” described Marilyn Gurney of the Maritime Command Museum, while speaking at a ceremony at Fort Needham Park.

The collision sparked a fire which led to the most powerful manmade explosion before the atomic bomb.

More than 2,000 people were killed and several thousand more injured, or left homeless.

After 96 years, most people in the Halifax area have heard the stories of the Halifax Explosion, including young students who attended the ceremonies on Friday.

“I know that it happened in 1917 and thousands of people died,” said one Grade 4 student from St. Stephen’s Elementary School.

“When the ship caught fire, everybody on the shop knew it was going to explode,” said another.

About 9,000 people were injured in the blast and 10,000 were left homeless.

Among the 2,000 people killed were nine firefighters and the explosion remains the single greatest loss of life from a single incident in a fire service in Canadian history.

A monument at Fire Station 4 on Lady Hammond Road carries their name and a bell tolls for them every year on Dec. 6.

Another ceremony was held in Dartmouth at a park located at the intersection of Albro Lake Road and Pinecrest Drive, where the twisted rear cannon on the Mont Blanc is on display. It was hurled several kilometres from the ship to Albro Lake.

While the memories of the explosion may fade with each passing year, it appears schoolchildren are helping to keep the stories alive.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant