On December 6, 1917 the people of Halifax were drawn to their windows by a large fire on the river. a French munitions ship had collided with a Norwegian ship and burst into flames. When the munitions finally caught fire the resulting explosion was the largest ever recorded prior to the nuclear age. Every building within a half mile of the blast was destroyed and over 2000 people were killed. So much water was vaporized from the heat of the explosion that the floor of the harbor was temporarily exposed. A tsunami related to the event destroyed an entire native fishing village. Among the most common injuries to survivors and perhaps the most complicating part of the immediate response: blindness. They had been drawn to the windows to watch the fire. The shock from the blast shattered glass panes for close to a mile around the site. How fragile we are. What a delicate grasp we have on our tranquility. The reach of our own innocence can be astounding.
Anita Shreve brings the events of the Halifax explosion to vivid life in her novel A Wedding in December