Parallels drawn between Beirut and Halifax explosions
HALIFAX -- The parallels between the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and Tuesday’s deadly explosion in Beirut, Lebanon are striking. Not just from the perspective of their magnitude, but also the environments in which they happened, not to mention to the people most affected by the blasts.
Father Maximos Saikali has been consoling parishioners of Halifax’s Saint Antonios Antiochian Orthodox Church for the past two days.
“Here in Halifax, outside the city and in the province, they are not sleeping, they couldn’t eat,” says Father Saikali.
Nova Scotia’s Lebanese community is vibrant, with businesses, political and community leaders of Lebanese descent contributing mightily to the province’s historic and cultural fabric -- which means the shock and tragedy of the explosion more than 8000 kilometres away is very raw for many Maritimers.
“It’s like the Canadian and Lebanese flags, they are twins. Twins in everything, even in the tragedies and good times,” says Saikali.
The Beirut explosion has drawn comparisons to the one that flattened Halifax in 1917.
Historian Blair Beed says Lebanese immigrants who lived in Halifax more than a hundred years ago would have passed along the story of the Halifax Explosion to their children and grandchildren.
“They survived the Halifax Explosion and they would have had to rebuild their lives, just like the people in Beirut are going to have to rebuild their lives,” says Beed.
Beed says the images and videos from Beirut are staggering.
“I’m thinking of seeing the Halifax Explosion in colour,” says Beed. “You’re seeing people watching the explosion, and they’re waiting for something to happen, and then it happens. That’s exactly what happened in the Halifax Explosion.”
Looking at both explosions through the prism of history provides some stunning parallels.
In the years following the Halifax Explosion recovery, the world was devastated by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
Beirut will be forced to rebuild in the era of COVID-19.
First responders in both explosions suffered tragic losses.
“There’s a church scene where the priest is having a mass, and then the windows collapse in on him. We had that happen in churches in Halifax,” adds Beed.
Father Saikali says there’s lots of work to be done to help people in Beirut, and he hopes a lot of assistance will come from people living in this province.
“Our roots are so deep in Nova Scotia,” says Saikali.
Historic roots, adding to the shock and horror felt by many, in the aftermath of another tragic explosion.