Friday, August 31, 2007

10 years

Okay, I will be really predictable with this one.

Question - do you remember wher you were when you'd heard the news princess Diana was dead?

I will always remember the moment and place, with a surreal clarity.

My friend Rob and I were driving along BC's Hwy 93 in my old pick-up truck. We'd been hiking in Kootenay national park but couldn't find a campsite at one of the backcountry spots - it was the long weekend, after all. So, we decided to head south, towards Radium Hot Springs, to grab a camping spot or at least put the tent up somewhere in the ditch. It was already fairly late, getting dark, and I was slightly paranoid about hitting an animal; lots of coyotes, wild game, even moose and bear on the roads in this part of the country. We turned the radio on; Rob's a guitarist and can't help but have tunes on while driving...I started to search for a local station or perhaps something on CBC radio. And there it was, on the news.

I think we were initially incredulous, maybe even said something to the effect of "holy s#$&!". Later on, we fell very quiet and just listened to the journalist's voice as he described the scene and the world reaction. It was heavy - despite the fact I had never been a big Diana fan or a watcher of any celebrities, nor was I particularly interested in the Royal family.

The absolute clarity with which I remember the evening speaks to the basic fascination us, humans, have with big, ditiniguishing markers in time, particularly when the event involves a tragedy of some sorts. And by "tragedy', I don't mean a loss of a friend. I mean a public event, on which strikes at a collective consciousness and which rearranges one's picture of the world...even to the point of shattering a long-held belief, illusion or impression.

When I was little, my schoolmates and I were all big followers of Formula 1 racing. And the driver we loved the most was Gilles Villeneuve. When he died in a crash in April 1982, my buddies and I held a minute of silence. We also held it the next year, and if I remember correctly, the year after. I was ten years old and the death of my favourite 'celebrity' affected me, no doubt.

The death of Princess Di probably did not strike at the same chord as that of a Formula 1 star. But I do think about her incredible life and her battles with the almost saint-like status, and about the fact she continues to hold this fascination for many people around the world. At the same time, how much has the world changes in the 10 years? How much less - or perhaps more - relevant would have Diana become? Would she be in politics now, like Hillary Clinton or Sonia Gandhi? What would she have to say about British troops in Iraq? I do wonder...and I do think about her remarkable effect on the world, at least on the anniversary.


Umar said...

I think it's kind of interesting that you held moments of silence for a Canadian athlete, while I used to add a prayer for a Swedish goalie, Pelle Lindbergh, in grade four when he died. What is it about high-quality but foreign athletes?

Chances are, today, I'd say Lindbergh was a f@#$ing moron for being so drunk and getting into his car.

Anyhow, I was watching Saturday Night Live, I think it was a Joe Pesci episode, when Brian Williams (NBC Brian Williams, not CBC Brian Williams), or someone of the like cut in and started showing scenes of the crash. I thought it was a joke being played by NBC, but it didn't go away.

Jan Triska said...

Maybe it's simple - you really liked the guy, and he was amazing is some distinct way.
High-calibre foreign athletes are the most recognizable ones..they've already made it in their own country and are playing on the bigger stage. Plus, kids and young people tend to idolize someone slightly different yet seemingly approachable. That's why Beckham and Zidane are such global stars; talented, magnetic, but somehow imaginable as the guy next door (i.e they are not too weird or freakish to imagine living besides middle-class people).

Now, no one would have that reaction if Ozzy Osbourne kicked it in. There would be sadness among the true metal fans, but there would be that exclusive aspect to the mourning.

joncormier said...

I was drunk in Antigonish N.S. when this happened. I thought the same thing then as I do now. Her kids were too young to have lost their mother.

Seeing the constant celebrity muck raking over her now makes me feel the same sort of disgust at an unknown group of journalists and photographers as well as the people who are drawn to tragedy for entertainment.