This January marked the 92nd anniversary of Boston’s Great Molasses Flood. It sounds implausible but on January 15, 1919 it took 21 lives, injured 150 people, killed horses, destroyed buildings and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. At that time molasses was a top commodity. A tank had been built on Commercial Street near Keany Square to hold over 2 million gallons. It was a huge tank and it provided a great financial advantage for the Purity Distilling Company. Tragically, its construction was rushed. For a few years after it was built groaning noises could be heard coming from it. Fermentation of the molasses on an unseasonably warm day caused the tank to explode and a wall of molasses 30 feet high rolled through the streets at an estimated 35 mph. The force of the explosion knocked a nearby house off its foundation, took out an overhead railway and shattered windows for a mile. People drowned in a wave of molasses. All for a company’s greed and pride.
I don’t remember learning about this event in school. I read about it last year in an almanac that Marie got for Christmas. I later read a book about it, “The Dark Tide,” by Stephen Puleo. I’m not sure what intrigued me most about the event: the bizarre tragedy or the sadness of the loss of life. Perhaps it was the reminder that life can change in an instant.
Ever since my late husband’s death I have been aware of the fragility of life and of our plans. When asked about my thoughts on the end of the world they come quite easily. Regardless of the second coming or the apocolypse or the end of the world, all we truly have is now. We don’t know if we’ll die tomorrow or next year or in thirty years. We don’t know how much time we have left any more than we know when the world will come to an end. Even if someone’s prophesy were correct and the date was set, our time is uncertain.
What is important is how we live the here and now. To seek truth, to love as God loves us. To live prudently and wisely. To teach our children the same…to be moral, giving and forgiving people. As Christians, to live as Christ taught us.
Invariably, we’ll fall short. But we must try. Apathy or dispair are not good options. Tragedy and loss are difficult. I have lost close loved ones, I know the pain and the difficulty of going on. My late mother-in-law lost her son. I saw her pain. I saw her faith and the strength that came from it. Years later after more terrible losses and multiple, serious health problems, people asked her how she kept going. She answered, “I could give in and become depressed and be of no good to anyone. But there are people who still need me, and I have to look at the blessings that God has given me, what I have, not what has been lost.”
Ninety-two years ago the world changed suddenly for many Bostonians. Some lost their livelihood, some their homes, some lost their loved ones. I pray that God gave them the strength to go on. I hope that they were able to see blessings and to live to see more.
Through our losses or suffering or difficulties, I pray that we are able to see all of our blessings, too.
God bless you,
The Abbey Farm