Shattered City, Shattered Lives
Halifax, N.S., Dec. 6, 1917
“Race you!” Clara MacDonald called back at her brother as she leapt down the steps of her family’s house on Creighton Street.
“You can’t beat me!” Douglas yelled in reply. “And besides, who wants to get to school early?”
But Clara had stopped. “What’s that cloud down in the harbour? I think a ship’s on fire!”
Their race forgotten, the pair took off toward the water. Nobody liked to see a ship sink or people get hurt, but a fire, well, that was exciting. Maybe the firefighting boats would be out. If they sprayed a lot of water, there would be interesting icicles all over. Maybe Clara and Douglas could be late for school just this once. . .
They felt the shock almost before the noise. The terrible, deafening noise of an explosion like . . . like nothing they’d ever imagined. Like the moon crashing into the sun. The force knocked them to the ground.
Clara’s head banged on a fence as she fell. Douglas tried to grab her but he, too, was slammed into the ground by the power of the blast.
“Clara! Are you okay? Where are you?” Douglas couldn’t see anything. What had happened? He put his hands to his face — they came away wet and sticky with blood.
Just then, Clara started moaning. “Douglas?” Her voice was weak and quivery.
“I’m here, Clara, but” — he tried not to sound panicky — “I can’t see you. I can’t see anything.”
“I’m just across the street.” Clara’s head hurt like she’d been smacked with a baseball bat, and she could tell she was bleeding. The thought made her woozy. Her arms and legs were cut, her coat and socks in tatters.
“I can’t move yet. Come toward my voice. You’ll be all right.” But even as she looked at her brother, she knew something was terribly wrong.