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Preparations underway to commemorate 100th anniversary of Halifax Explosion
Special ceremonies will be held Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of a disaster of epic proportions.
Two thousand people died and 9,000 were injured after the Norwegian relief vessel SS Imo collided with a French munitions ship laden with explosives, the SS Mont Blanc, in Halifax in 1917.
All of it is fascinating to new generations learning about the Halifax Explosion for the first time in Saint Patrick’s Church, which was damaged but still standing after the blast.
“They're learning it in school because of the 100th anniversary and they have to be the next generation who passes it on," says historian and author Blair Beed.
General awareness signs of the Halifax Explosion are popping up all over the city. A mass grave for unidentified victims was spruced up for the occasion, and a powerful sense of pride can be felt in the north end, which bore the brunt of the blast.
Work is wrapping up on the revitalized Fort Needham Memorial Park, where the main ceremony will take place. A new plaza has been constructed, along with landscaping around the bell tower. Even the upgraded playground evokes memories of what happened in December of 1917.
"It is a place that reflects the devastation and appropriately pays tribute to those who were killed and injured, balanced against the functionality of a park,” says Craig Walkington of the Halifax Explosion Anniversary Advisory Committee.
Firefighters, too, will again mark the anniversary. For them, the day marks an important commemoration for a department devastated by the blast.
“We lost nine members from the Halifax Fire Department, and still, to this date, is the largest loss of firefighter life in one single incident,” says Division Commander Brad Connors. “So it's pretty significant for us to remember that event and to pay homage to those members."
A permanent memorial was revealed on the Boston Common Thursday commemorating the explosion. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other city officials joined Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage for the unveiling of the large plaque.
"When we called out, it was the people of Boston who responded to our needs. There were many people globally who did, but the people of Boston responded in spades,” Premier McNeil told the crowd during the ceremony.
Blair Beed says Dec. 6, 2017 should be a commemoration rather than a celebration.
“We are commemorating people who survived and that they rebuilt the city and that we benefitted from that,” he says.
Firefighters are expecting Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to attend the Halifax ceremony this year. There will also be a contingent from the Boston Fire Department, along with the mayor, the premier and others.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been invited, but hasn’t confirmed whether he will attend.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.