98th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion

At this moment, a remembrance ceremony is underway in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Every year, people gather beside the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower, to commemorate the wartime marine disaster which killed 2,000 people, injured another 9,000, and left 25,000 homeless. One-third of the dead, and dying, were children, many of whom were walking to school.

One of these was Merle Huggins, second youngest child of George Melbourne Huggins, the principal of Richmond School. The school was in the direct line of the enormous blast that could be heard as far away as Prince Edward Island. In a city numbering just above 60,000 souls, the Huggins' experience was not unique. Yet, it fell to Mr. Huggins to bury not only his daughter, but the bodies of eighty-six other children, late students of Richmond School.

In chronicling the lives of this family, I am struck not only by the immediate impact that the Explosion wrought upon them, but also their exodus, in 1923, to Los Angeles, as if to put Halifax behind them. What is more, this family, which survived the Explosion with six children, seems to have dissipated within one generation, not one descendant following in their hereditary footsteps.

In memoriam, then, for young Merle Huggins, her suffering family, and the people of Halifax who remember to this day.

Link to biographical sketch for Merle Huggins (1906–1917).

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© Alison Kilpatrick, 2015. All rights reserved.
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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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© Alison Kilpatrick 2014–2017. All rights reserved.