The first time I experienced such a dramatic shift in the paradigm of life was on Irene’s birthday, September 11, 2001.
I had lived my entire life up to this point in relative comfort. Up until getting married, I lived at home. Mom and Dad provided for me well. They paid for my food, my education, they paid for my car, as well as my car insurance. They paid for everything. Everything was provided for me, and there was nothing for me to worry about.
I remember when I was in elementary school and the Vietnam War was nearing a possible end. I was only 10 at the time, but I worried constantly about being Drafted when I was to turn 18. There I was, a child, and I was worried about getting Drafted for the war. I worried about this possibility daily.
Time passed, the war ended, and I became a college graduate who married and moved out of the (parents) house. Life was good. I landed a really good job out of college, and it seemed that my life would continue without a life-altering incident as so many of my relatives and ancestors had been through in their lives. I was comfortable and happy. I remember thinking that I would most likely live my entire life in a world that was free and safe.
I was wrong.
Irene and I were at the gym on the Tuesday morning of 9/11/01. We had just finished our workout and getting ready to head home. The T.V. monitors were displaying live coverage of the first plane crash into the World Trade Center building in New York. What a scary sight to see. What was even more frightening was what we soon learned to be terrorist attacks on the United States. We watched ‘live’ in horror as plane the crashes continued, and then the towers collapsed in what seemed like slow motion. I had never felt an internal fear as heavy as I felt on that day.
The world had just changed, and my perspective of life within the world had just changed. I was again scared. Scared for my own life, and for that of those I loved.
I soon realized that it wasn’t the world that had changed, but rather my perspective on the world had become a reality. A realization of what actually is, and not one that I merely thought. I was innocently gullible and now realized that for the most part of my life, I was sheltered and I was comfortable. The constant care I was provided while growing up had me wearing figurative eye-sight blinders that kept me, and society at large, ignorant to the realities of our fragile existence and daily safety.
Life had changed, for everyone.
Nineteen years later, and with a realistic and responsible perspective on life, we are again experiencing change. While the events of 9/11/01 were hyper focused on one country, the outbreak of COVID-19 is global.
Eight days ago I informed my students just minutes before dismissal that Spring Break would begin one week early. Their first reaction was happiness and elation. But I explained that there would still be academic work for them to complete during the week before Spring Break, and that school would resume on the Monday following Spring Break, March 30. I was already not comfortable with the current situation and therefore informed my students they were to take EVERYTHING home. EVERYTHING. My students had never heard such directive from me and didn’t fully understand my statement. I kept hearing ‘What about our math workbook, do we take that too?” EVERYTHING. “What about our iPads?” EVERYTHING. “DO we take our water bottles and binders?” EVERYTHING.
Students loaded up their backpacks and still had a boatload of books to carry with them on their way out. It was a very strange sight to see.
Life had just changed, again.
Updated news from our school district was changing rapidly, multiple times throughout the day, and daily. There were new rules and guidelines, new procedures, everything.
The world is experiencing a real global Pandemic. The state of California is on Lockdown. Society is directed to not exist as business as usual right now. Our school district has now dismissed school until May 11 and word is that there is no intention to un-dismiss school for the three weeks after 5/11/20 and before the end of the school year. It looks like we will not resume school for the remainder of this year.
Teaching has just changed. Schooling has just changed, Parenting has just changed. Social interaction has just changed. Shopping has just changed. Life has just changed for the entire world, literally and permanently.
What will we do moving forward? How do we manage life during, and after our current Pandemic? How do we handle social existence in the future? What about money? The world uses paper and coin as a physical money exchange. As a result, germs are dispersed and transmitted readily. Is this ok? Does the heightened awareness of germ exchange modify our use of currency?
The Stock Market took a dive this week and there is no financial relief in sight. Businesses are stressed, large companies are stressed. Society is stressed. There are no real answers right now other than keeping distance from others.
No one is sure where this change will take us. At this point, there is not yet light at the end of the tunnel. No one could have ever imagined the reality of our current state of being outside the pages of a dystopian fictional novel.