On December 6, 1917, two ships collided near the shore of Halifax, Nova Scotia. One, filled with munitions for the Western Front, caught fire. Most of the city’s inhabitants were unaware of their mortal danger.
Vince Coleman, a train dispatcher, saw that calamity was imminent, and delayed his own evacuation so that he could warn inbound trains to halt. He, along with almost two thousand others, perished in one of the largest explosions in history.
The city of Boston responded quickly. Abraham Ratshesky, a banker, public servant, and philanthropist, led the way:
Ratshesky mobilized that first “relief special,” getting the workers out of Boston on the night of December 6. The group was so determined to reach Halifax that its members climbed out of the train in the snowstorm to help shovel the tracks.
In gratitude for Boston’s help, every year the province of Nova Scotia sends the Hub its official Christmas tree.