Day 27: Defining Events
Updated: Apr 13
Growing up, my mother would always talk about the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. She would recall how everyone gathered close to television sets around the world to watch Neil Armstrong take his "small step." NASA estimated that 530 million people watched the event live. Symbolically, the moment not only united the world but also became the summit of technological achievement, of perseverance in the face of the unknown, of the triumph of science and the human mind over any obstacles. Imagine people watching, in awe, as the events unfolded. Those are the same people that Millennials and Generation Z dismiss with the devastating "OK, Boomer," while we smile, quietly ignored, and continue with whatever we were doing.
For us, GenXers (but also for Millennials), our defining event wasn't positive. I was living in the UK. We were in a meeting when the phone rang, and we were told that a plane had crashed on one of the Twin Towers. We tried to get some news online, but the internet was already clogged with other people trying to find out the same information we were after. I couldn't go back to my meeting and returned to my place. By the time I arrived home, the first tower had already fallen. I watched in disbelief as the second fell live on TV. That was the defining event of my life. Nothing that happened before or after would ever carry a similar weight.
I lived in New York City between 1997 and 1999. Afterwards, I continued to visit both for work and to fulfill the requirements for my doctorate. Between 1998 and 1999, I took to going shopping in Chinatown on Saturday. I found wonderful food there, and I walked back to the PATH's Twin Towers stop. I would read at Borders for an hour or so, sometimes buying a book, more often than not just having enjoyed the outing for what it was.
On September 11, 2001, I was in shock. I sat on my couch for two weeks watching the towers fall from every angle. It was like an itch you have been told not to scratch: I couldn't help it. I would wake up repeatedly, in the middle of the night, thinking the phone was ringing, that someone was calling me from a plane wanting to say goodbye. September 11 changed everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic changes everything for Generation Z (people born between 1996 and 2010, that is, people like my kid). This is the event they will remember. We know that some of the effects of the pandemic might be harsh, particularly for the younger ones, who perceive time as crawling. There is a chance, however, if we pull this off, if we manage to stop this disease on its tracks, that there will be some positive things to remember. Yes, there have already been too many deaths, but humans are also showing solidarity and compassion. We should make sure we continue on the same path, one that shows we are capable of great empathy towards each other.
Canada cases 23,316
World cases 1,777,666
World deaths 108,867
World recoveries 404,372