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• Evelyn Lawrence - Recollections
“Evelyn, come see the fire.”

I saw it. I was in the cloak room, I had a music lesson across at the convent, and I was supposed to be in at nine o’clock for prayers, and when I got into the cloak room there was a girl there, Annie White, she said “Evelyn, come see the fire.” And sure enough we went and looked out the window. There were great big billows of black smoke; we didn’t know what it was. We couldn’t see the ship, just the smoke. And I guess I just happened to turn away, if I hadn’t I would have been blinded right there, but it [the window] hit me on the head here, and that’s why I had a skull fracture.

We were in St. Joseph’s school, the soldiers were there quickly. They were outside and they were saying, “Come on now jump!” We were on the first floor, [above ground level] and we had a get down, and they kept saying, “Jump now, we’ll catch you!” And they had those great big nets; so we did, we jumped. We got out of the school, and everybody was crying and going on, they didn’t know where they were. One or the girls said, “Your arm is just hanging!” and so it was. But we weren’t thinking about that [being hurt]; we were so scared, we were crying. The school didn’t burn, it just got smashed, the top came down, but I don’t think there were many killed in our school, Richmond school had an aweful lot. A lot of children were killed but not in the schools.

We couldn’t get down Russell Street, to our home. I lived down at the bottom of Russell Street, handy to Campbell Road. Wellington Barracks was right in the back of our yard, and that’s why we had so many soldiers there the day of the explosion, which helped so much. They kept everybody from going down the hills, where the fire was. And I know when the explosion happened, we were all kind of running around, didn’t know what was going on, half crazy.

They [the soldiers] told us to start walking down Gottingen Street. They were there with great big trucks going up and down the street picking up people, and bodies. As we were walking a truck stopped, a soldier jumped off and he said, “Oh here…” and he grabbed me and put me in the back of the truck. I was bleeding, and he took me to Camphill Hospital.

At Camphill, they had names up on the wall showing who was there. I found my mother there, she was standing by Father McManus pastor at St Joseph’s; she wasn’t hurt, she came to look for me. One of the doctors said they’d have to take that right off, my arm, and Father McManus said, “Oh please try and do what you can.” So that’s the only thing that saved my arm. My mother went to look for my brother Gerry, who was at home with her at the time of the explosion. He was also taken to Camphill.

We were moved from Camphill to the YMCA. We stayed there until February. It was lovely at the YMCA, very nice. This was during the time when all the doctors came from Boston. I can remember Dr. Jeff and I often thought afterward, “Why didn’t I follow him and see where he got to?” He was so sweet. I can remember at Christmas time he dressed up as Santa Claus. We all got presents and they were awfully good to us.
“Everyone was nice, they gave us books to read, and coloring books, and candy. Mrs. and Mr. Colwell, from the Colwell Brothers Company, were very good. Mr. Colwell was the deputy Mayor; and she would come in, she said, “Is there any little thing you’d like me to bring?” She was awfully good.

One day my mother came in to see me. At that time they [widows] used to put on a black hat and a vale when their husbands were dead. Before this now, there was a cousin of mine that had come in and said, “That’s too bad about your father.” It did not sink in. But when my mother came to see me and she had on this black hat, I started to cry. She said “Oh you heard?” I said, “Yes, and then we had a set to, you know.” I’ll always remember my Mother, she was so strong, she knew what she had to put up with, her husband dead, and Gerry and I hurt.

A cousin of my mother’s lived on Clifton Street. He was a mechanic, Herschel his name was. He had an extra bedroom that he gave to my mother and my oldest brother until we [Gerry and I] were ready to get out of the hospital.

When we got out of the hospital we all stayed in one of the houses they built in the commons. I can’t think of the name of the street. It was a nice house, we had the upstairs flat, two bedrooms, and a bathroom, a living room, outside they had bins made for your coal. We had furniture from Boston. I had to go to the manual training school on Cunard Street.

From there we went to the Hydrostone, the first street that was finished, four houses in a row. We lived on the corner. I lived there until my mother died.

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