Curse of the Narrows

In an age when “disaster relief” is a familiar trope and FEMA has become a punch line, it’s interesting to read how our predecessors dealt with apocalyptic carnage. In 1917 a munitions ship blew up in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, devastating the waterfront and triggering a murderous tsunami. A single telegram reached Boston, and, braving a crushing blizzard, hundreds of volunteers mobilized to help. Mac Donald is a cracking-good storyteller, and she’s written the definitive account of the disaster and its relief—commemorated to this day by Halifax’s annual donation of a Christmas tree to Boston.