On Wednesday afternoon, May 5th, 1937, Thurlow Smith along with fifteen of his grade seven and eight classmates at Port Hood Academy came outside to have an official class picture taken by a visiting photographer. Thurlow remembers that Stewart (D.C.) MacDonald, the Academy principal, was present that day. He recalls vividly the excitement of the boys when they spotted an airship flying overhead. His classroom teacher, Alex J. MacLachlan, was quite tolerant of the extra time the boys were taking to observe this novelty in the sky. It was an unusual sighting so he let them watch. As they viewed this spectacle from the south end of the Academy, they could observe the large airship in flight as it glided over the Little Judique area towards Antigonish County on the horizon. Thurlow remembers it being an aluminum-like colour and he was able to make out the shape of the passenger cabin. It was plainly seen. It seemed to be moving slowly and they watched for five to ten minutes.
The following day, May 6th, 1937, reports began to filter into Port Hood that the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg had caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. The airship had departed from Frankfurt, Germany on May 3rd. At 7:25 pm, May 6th, while in the process of docking, the Hindenburg caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames. It is widely believed that a static electrical discharge ignited the free hydrogen in the Hindenburg and caused an explosive fire. Total destruction time was estimated to be approximately sixteen seconds. Of the 97 people on board, there were 35 fatalities and 62 survivors. The Hindenburg was making the first trans-Atlantic passenger flight of the year to the United States of America by the German Zeppelin Company.
As local people discussed the Hindenburg disaster, Thurlow and his classmates knew that this was the airship that they had so excitedly watched on the afternoon of May 5th as they gathered to have their class photo taken.