One Sunday afternoon, in the month of December 1908, the beautiful city of Messina was all life and light and gaiety. The sky was blue and cloudless, and out in the Strait the little, crested waves leaped and sparkled in the sunshine. The squares and gardens were thronged with townsfolk in holiday attire; laughing groups of young men and maidens went to and fro or paused to listen to the band; fathers of families were romping with their children on the grass; mothers were quietly knitting hard by: all was merry as a marriage bell. Happy, careless ease reigned everywhere, and when night fell, the big, round moon shone upon a silent town in which thousands of people were wrapped in peaceful slumber.
But ere the dawn had begun to brighten the eastern sky an awful doom fell upon that city. The thunder roared, the lightning flashed, the earth heaved and cracked, houses and churches and public buildings came crashing to the ground, fires broke out, and a huge, angry wave from the sea swept over the land. The morning sun shone upon a terrible scene of destruction. The fair city was no more; thousands of the happy folks of yesterday had been hurried into eternity, and those who were spared found themselves homeless and ruined.
With almost the same startling suddenness the Great War broke upon Europe. The thunderbolt fell upon us from a sky of blue; the peace of the world was broken on a smiling day. Five of the Great Powers of Europe blew their war trumpets, and millions of armed men stood ready to carry death and destruction into countless homes in many lands. The Great War had begun.