AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A very large Canadian guest visited the state capitol Monday. An enormous white pine cut down in Nova Scotia, a gift to the city of Boston for its role in providing relief 100 years ago when an explosion leveled parts of Halifax. Part of the "tour" included a first-ever stop in Maine.
"On Dec. 6, 1917, the city of Halifax was devastated by what was at the time the largest explosion known to mankind," declared a town crier, in full regalia, in Augusta with news from Maine's northern neighbor.
That explosion was triggered by the collision of the French cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc and the Norwegian SS Imo in Halifax Harbour, fueled by 5,000 kegs of TNT and nearly 500 kegs of benzol.
"One-hundred years ago the province of Nova Scotia was forever changed," the town crier said. "We lost thousands."
► PHOTOS: Halifax Explosion of 1917
Nova Scotia minister Leo Glavine personally gave thanks for the quick thinking and quick action of New England states that fateful day. "I have found it very emotional to think back to the response from what we used to refer to the Boston States," Glavin shared, eyes misting over. "Even without full details, Maine and Massachusetts responded with the relief trains."
Those trains were filled with Maine National Guard members, and doctors, nurses and medical supplies to help the 9,000 injured in the explosion.
"People in Maine don't really know about it," state archivist Samuel Howes said. He himself didn't know the role Maine played until shortly after he started his job near the statehouse. "It was actually the first request I received for a reference request and I thought, 'Hmm, I wonder what Maine did…'"
As he discovered, Maine did a lot. And Howes' research prompted the visit of the 53-foot white spruce, cut down in Nova Scotia's wild Cape Breton Blue's Mills’ region. It's an annual thank you gift for Massachusetts' help in 1917, but this year, for the first time ever, the tree arrived in Maine first.
From Augusta, the white spruce will be hauled down to the Bay State where it will be put up as the Christmas tree, standing tall, in Boston Common.
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