During Grade 8 history class, my most memorable teacher opined: Someday, there will be a life-changing event and your whole generation will recount where they were, when it happened, for all the years to come. It could be the impetus to change your world.
To illustrate his point, he recalled JFK’s assassination. Girls in his American elementary school classroom hit the ground crying upon hearing news of the president’s death, he said. Teachers stopped in their tracks and the whole country shifted on its axis, and became less innocent. Everyone, in unison, realized the change.
When classes ended, I went home, retold his story and asked my parents if they felt that same kind of seismic shift my teacher referred to.
They, being the least sentimental people to roam the Earth, said they didn’t remember anything of the sort, then or in the years that followed.
But more than anything, the concept was too overwrought for their liking: A moment, they said with patented cynicism, can’t change or define a time or people. No matter how incensed the masses get, old patterns always prevail. The rich will get richer, poor will get poorer, politicians will lie and the Canucks won’t win a Stanley Cup.
It was a conversation that happened long before 9/11, however and despite their assurances otherwise, that day a decade ago really did offer that shared cultural experience that offered widespread change.
Everyone knows what they were doing when the planes struck the Twin Towers.
For my part, one moment I was lying in bed in my safe suburban B.C. home lamenting a bellyache, the next the world appeared to be coming to pieces with the images of smoke, screams and death.
How those details changed the world, however, isn’t quite as universal as my old teacher led me to believe. We may know where we were, but where we’re going is still up in the air.
As some opened their eyes to a world away, wars of divisive origins were sparked, and political ideologies shifted back and forth. The world, in many ways became smaller, as the strife of people a continent away became everyday conversation.
There has been good and bad, in the years that followed. But during weeks like this, when the dubious anniversary is being celebrated with a resurgence of rhetoric and jingoism it would be more comforting to lean into my genetic allotment of cynicism and point out little has changed since that day.
The rich did get richer, the poor are still hurting and the Canucks have yet to win a Stanley Cup.
Kathy Michaels is a reporter for the Capital News.