Think Like a Historian: Introduction to the Halifax Explosion

ETHEL BOND Letter Transcript Use this worksheet to support the ‘Exploring’ exercise in Activity 4 of Think Like a Historian: The Halifax Explosion Education Guide . 298 South Street Halifax, N.S. Dec. 16th 1917 Dear Uncle Murray, Little I thought when I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that I’d be writing now under such altered circumstances. I know you are all very anxious to get some first hand, definite news from us and I’m going to try to let you know just all about things. It is very hard to write about it all and yet the later one leaves writing the harder it is to get at it. You have bye [sic] this time got the wire Jean sent and also her letter so you know that the worst has happened to us. But really Uncle Murray when we see the suffering and agony of people and how one person after another has been cut up beyond recognition, lived awhile and then died, why we have a very great deal to be thankful for. Daddy, while he was killed and we simply do not know where to turn, is free from all this pain and suffering and he never knew what happened to him. The morning of the disaster Bid [nickname for sister Bertha] was late getting up and Daddy and I had had our breakfast and family prayer. Miss Newcombe was coming to sew and I was in a hustle, so when we came out into the kitchen Daddy picked up our sugar tin from the pantry floor and went to the mill to fill it. I went to the front door to get the morning paper and had merely reached the door when I was knocked down, stunned. Things kept coming on me and I got a bang in my chin and I really thought that it was all up with me. Everywhere it was pitch black and coming as it did out of a clear beautiful morning, I immediately thought the magazine in Wellington had blown up. The first thing I remember is scrambling up out from under things and climbing up the remains of the stairway to Bertha. She was standing in the upper hall just by the sky-light, dark closet door and blood seemed dripping from everywhere. She had been in the bathroom and was blown from the toilet clean out into the hall and I think her cuts were from the glass on that big picture hanging there. Her left leg up above the knee was cut in a number of places. Her face seemed all cut and she had two teeth knocked off. You see she only had her underclothes on so she was pretty well exposed. A heavy blue bathrobe was blown completely off and she didn’t see it after. She says she saw the church collapse before she herself was knocked out but I have no recollection of anything beyond the one big crash. When we got some clothes for Bid and I saw she was alive, I went as fast as I could to Daddy. You see I knew where he went and I crawled over things and got to the ruins. The barn was flat. The mill was in the same state. I don’t know where things were but everything had collapsed. I couldn’t hear a sound and called frantically but go[t] no answer. I thought that he might be stunned and pinned down so he couldn’t move so I began to move boxes and things and when I looked down his body was right at my feet and everything was quiet. Oh, I can’t tell you how I felt. It was all so dreadful and the moans and crys [sic] that rent the air will ring in my ears for ages. Something, we don’t know just what, struck Daddy on the head, making a very deep cut and causing instant death. His head was bleeding terribly and we could do nothing. The heart action was completely stopped and his head from the concussion and loss of blood was even then cold. Bid came and we lifted a couple of things off but the crys [sic] of the living who needed help were so insistent that we simply had to leave and help them. Fires started as soon as the explosion came and we were forced to act quickly. Our house did not T H I N K L I K E A H I S T O R I A N . C A