On December 6, 1917, an explosion rocked Halifax, Nova Scotia, like no other man-made explosion had done in history up until then. And it remains Canada's most deadly disaster.
It all happened when the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship packed with explosives, collided with the SS Imo, a Norwegian vessel in the Port of Halifax at 8:45 in the morning, causing a massive fire on the Mont-Blanc.
Devastated Halifax: Views of the Greatest Disaster in the history of the American Continent - one of many books sol… https://t.co/F2HtlkzOK6— Nova Scotia Museum (@Nova Scotia Museum) 1512408495.0
Then, at exactly 9:04:35, the Mont-Blanc exploded, leveling a square mile of the Richmond district of Halifax, killing approximately 2,000 people, and injuring around 9,000 more.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the deadly blast, and Anne Theriault, the great-granddaughter of one of the survivors, took to Twitter to tell her great-grandfather's tale, which quickly went viral.
Tomorrow is 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. My great-grandfather was a survivor of the explosion. I kno… https://t.co/Tv3OJOuQ51— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512534107.0
His name was William Cave, and according Theriault, he'd had a pretty rough childhood:
He'd just been through a rough few years - his mother, two sisters (one of whom I'm named after - Annie Florence) a… https://t.co/542OWfW4yb— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512534400.0
Cave was running late to work that morning, and it ended up being the thing that saved his life:
At 9:04 am when the explosion happened he was out in the street. Like I said, this was super lucky, because both hi… https://t.co/3NgYQk82MI— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512534552.0
As one could imagine, the explosion caused quite a bit of panic, as survivors struggled to locate missing relatives:
He lost an aunt and uncle in the explosion. Everyone from the north end who survived lost someone. He was fortunate… https://t.co/UzJz7DbIoS— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512534871.0
But luckily for Cave, his father survived the blast, along with some other cherished possessions:
His father also survived. And somehow managed to save the two dolls that had belonged to his two daughters. He late… https://t.co/wKlhEJxwnP— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512534930.0
Flash-forward several years:
This is my great-grandfather with my great-grandmother on their 65th wedding anniversary. I was 9 when he died. https://t.co/ebeJnTog0f— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535085.0
The experience left Cave a changed man. One that Theriault remembers fondly:
I remember him being one of the kindest, funniest, happiest people I ever met. Even if he couldn't keep all of us g… https://t.co/UjNakJwybx— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535252.0
Theriault has a theory as to why he had such a large family:
Sometimes I think he had such a big family to replace the family he lost. Which seems to have worked out ok for him… https://t.co/AKRjSxPN7a— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535330.0
It was definitely a different time back then:
One of my favourite stories about him is that he would come home every day from working on the docks and change out… https://t.co/5P064kt9rV— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535382.0
Theriault then gives some devastating facts about the explosion:
It remains the largest man-made explosion other than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in WWII. In fact, those were… https://t.co/zsB6jFpgG8— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535671.0
As well as this tidbit which eternally tied America to the disaster:
Boston sent doctors, nurses, glaziers (because all the windows had been blown out) and all other kinds of help. Thi… https://t.co/GYfUBsVrdE— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535804.0
This is why Halifax and Boston are sister cities <3— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512535989.0
Theriault goes on to detail how her great-grandfather and great-grandmother met:
He was working on some kind of construction on Victoria General Hospital in Halifax and she was a scullery maid. He… https://t.co/3ulRPRhHdI— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512536164.0
Somehow, though, they got to know each other (we used to tease him and ask how they'd spoken and he'd say "we had other ways of talking!")— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512536302.0
And she finishes with this heart-melter:
My grandmother has a valentine that he sent her in which he called her the most beautiful lassie in the world.— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512536332.0
That is a truly beautiful story.
Twitter was clearly moved:
@anne_theriault @JAWoltemade So sorry for your loss, Anne. I'm so happy you shared your story again so that I could read it.— Dr. Joyce- Certifications, Consulting & Education (@Dr. Joyce- Certifications, Consulting & Education) 1512534984.0
@anne_theriault Thank you for sharing this story. Being from Boston, it's nice to have ay least one name to the event.— insanekaosx (@insanekaosx) 1512577557.0
@anne_theriault @cykelly1718 Amazing story!!— Melissa Rogers (@Melissa Rogers) 1512572207.0
And people even learned things they didn't know before:
@anne_theriault I’d never heard of it. Just wiki’d it - wow!! Terrible thing 😢— Pen Aagaard (@Pen Aagaard) 1512536693.0
@anne_theriault I'd never heard of this before. The Christmas tree to Boston is a nice touch.— Space Ape (@Space Ape) 1512584694.0
@nanowhiskers Me too! It makes me cry!— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512536791.0
Even Theriault learned something new:
@drmlb I didn't know that! That's super interesting!— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1512534498.0
@anne_theriault @drmlb you may be interested in this podcast on it! 👍🏻 https://t.co/FXJgdD1Yv2— Heather Logghe, MD (@Heather Logghe, MD) 1512592782.0
Hopefully the stories of the survivors will continue to be passed down from generation to generation, keeping their memories alive for years to come:
@anne_theriault @universalhub Thanks for sharing your family stories. I hope you will record them for your family… https://t.co/Ga1fJBZiEZ— Ann Siegel (@Ann Siegel) 1512560651.0
If you'd like to learn more about the Halifax Explosion, here's an excellent documentary that was recently released for the 100th Anniversary:
And thank you to Anne Theriault for sharing your great-grandfather's powerful story. It continues to inspire.
Please SHARE this with your friends and family.