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Remembering the Halifax Explosion of 1917

The Story


The 1917 Halifax disaster remains the worst man-made explosion in Canadian history but it remains largely forgotten. Some historians speculate it's because the tragedy affected the working class and not the high society, as was the case in the sinking of the Titanic. That may all change as Halifax marks the day with a permanent memorial at Fort Needham as shown in this CBC Television clip. The memorial houses the carillon of bells from Halifax's United Memorial Church, built in 1921 after the Presbyterian and Methodist churches were levelled in the blast. On Dec. 6, 1985 just before 9 a.m. a handful of survivors have gathered at the bell tower to remember that tragic day 68 years earlier. They are at the memorial to place a time capsule containing explosion-related artifacts in the bell's tower. A small planning error prevents the time capsule from being encased. The box is too big for the allotted space. Despite the glitch, the memorial is hailed as a long overdue reminder of that tragic day. 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Dec. 6, 1985
Reporter: Paul Barr
Duration: 1:38

Did You know?


• Every year on Dec. 6 at 9 a.m., a memorial service is held at the bell tower.
• The time capsule, which was eventually encased, was a 15-inch box made of acid-free plastic. It will be opened on Dec. 6, 2017, exactly 100 years after the explosion. Some of the items inside included: Halifax Relief Commission reports, a list of the dead, a 1917 coin and menus from the Halifax Hotel and the Green Lantern Restaurant from 1917.

• On Dec. 6, 1987, stained glass windows were unveiled at St. Joseph's Church in Halifax. The images paid tribute to the victims of the Halifax explosion. Some 400 members of their congregation died in the blast.
• In 1999 two new clocks were placed in the Halifax City Hall tower. The clock facing north was permanently fixed at 9:04:35; the exact moment of the 1917 Halifax explosion.


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