Almost 100 years after the Halifax Explosion, a family that lost touch after the tragedy has reunited in the city where it all began.
An estimated 2,000 people perished in the explosion of December 1917, including 46 members of the Jackson family – the largest loss of life in a single family.
Devastated and heartbroken, Diane Walker said her 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.’”
Now the families have reunited in Halifax, with the California delegation arriving Tuesday evening.
“I went up to meet some of them at the hotel last night,” said Walker on Wednesday. “Had dinner with a few of them and we just talked and talked and talked.”
Karen Defazio, now a resident of Orange County, says she is excited to learn more about her family history.
“I always thought I was Irish but I never knew because Jackson isn’t necessarily an Irish name,” said Defazio. “So when I found out the Jacksons were Irish, so now I have these Irish things up by my desk.”
Amid the smiles and hugs, the family admits there is a tinge of sadness in knowing that a generation lived without having met their long-lost relatives or knowing much about their family history.
“I know that my dad is looking down and is so happy to see that his children are now with family,” said Stephanie Jackson-Georgeanne, who lives in Los Angeles.
The family has planned several events this week, including a visit to the cemetery where their loved ones are buried.
They also plan to visit Fort Needham Park, one of a number of memorial sites dedicated to the Halifax Explosion.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Bruce Frisko