When SS Mont Blanc and SS Imo collided in the Halifax Harbour on Dec. 6, 1917., it sparked a massive explosion that killed almost 2,000 people, wounded 9,000 and left 25,000 homeless.
An exhibit at Resurgo Place in Moncton, N.B. that opened on Wednesday, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, highlights the role Monctonians played in relief efforts.
According to Bridget Murphy, a collections and research librarian at Resurgo Place, the exhibit, titled Answering the Call, brings to life the people behind the stories.
“There was a disaster, there was a need as we got together as a community and we helped these people,” said Murphy.
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Murphy spent weeks in front of her microfiche, sorting through old newspaper clippings, to discover how Monctonians went door to door gathering food, clothing, medical supplies and even toys for the children in the hours and days following the disaster.
“People were giving whatever they could,” she said.
Monctonians sprang into action immediately after the city received the first plea for help over the telegraph.
“Within three hours of the explosion they were able to send a whole train load of people and resources down to help Halifax,” said Murphy.
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Murphy also collected stories from the families of people who were involved in the relief efforts a century ago.
Ruth Phillips was moved to tears when she saw her father’s picture on display at the exhibit.
Her dad, Evan Hopper, was one of many New Brunswickers who answered Halifax’s call for help.
“He farmed with his dad so he knew how to work on barns and build so that is what he did. He helped reconstruct,” Phillips said.
Her father was only 19 years old but dropped everything on Christmas Eve and headed to help Halifax for the next six months.
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But the help didn’t end there.
Moncton firefighters travelled to Halifax to help put out the smoldering debris, while rescue volunteers were sent to search for bodies in the wreckage.
Since Moncton was the hub for Canadian National (CN) Railway, workers were also sent to Halifax to repair the severely damaged trail system while damaged rail cars were repaired at the CN shops in Moncton.
“One of the people that was working in the shops to repair those cars found a piece of melted metal in one of the cars,” said Sophie Auffrey, Moncton’s community heritage development officer.
That piece of metal turned out to be a fragment of SS Mont Blanc.
The shard is now on display at the exhibit which will remain at Resurgo Place until Jan. 7, 2017.