The tradition of an annual gift from Nova Scotia in recognition of Boston’s response to a fire that killed thousands of Canadians 100 years ago continues to this day.
It’s a somber lesson in history. On Dec. 6, 1917, two ships carrying TNT collided and the blast rocked Halifax, Nova Scotia, killing thousands of people, including children in schools.
"Streets just disappeared. Glass shattered. Streets crumbled," said Mather Elementary School teacher Mary Kate McKinnon.
McKinnon says she’s incorporated these important facts into her fourth grade history curriculum, but is also hoping her students learn about the giving and sacrifice that followed. Many first responders boarded a train to the Canadian province during a blizzard, distributing food, water and medical supplies.
For nearly 50 years, Nova Scotia’s been sending a Christmas tree to Boston as a thank you. But the students at Mather say they’ve been getting an even bigger gift.
"It’s a friendship," said fourth grade student Jai Kindell.
The Mather students regularly connect with St. Stephen’s Elementary students in Nova Scotia over FaceTime, one of the schools rebuilt near the blast site. And they’re also becoming pen pals, helping them get closer together, even though they're hundreds of miles apart.
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The Christmas tree donated from Nova Scotia will be lit in the Boston Common on Thursday.