“What world events have played defining roles in your life? What memories do you have of them? How have they influenced you?”

These were among the discussion questions at my last Book Club meeting. The book we read was When We Left Cuba, an historical novel set in the early ’60s. Among the events in the novel were the Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the assassination of JFK – events that many members of our Book Club remembered living through, although most of us were young children or teenagers at the time.

I remember how shocked and devastated everyone was when Kennedy was shot, although I was just ten years old and can’t say it played a defining role in my life. More recently, and closer to home, was the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Although I didn’t personally know anyone who was killed that day, I developed the same feelings of fear and vulnerability that many of us had, and had never experienced before. And today, twenty years later, we are all living with the security measures that are now standard at every airport. Most of them were unheard of before the attack,  but we take them for granted now whenever we travel by air.

“What about the pandemic?” one of our members asked as we discussed the questions. I nodded in agreement, wondering why that wasn’t the very first thing I thought of. It certainly has changed our lives in many ways, and I’m sure its influence will continue on in more ways than we even realize right now – in the same way that the Great Depression affected the people who lived through it for the rest of their lives.

How many times have you heard stories of elderly people who were so frugal that they washed and reused tin foil? Or whose homes were actually dangerous because they were so filled with junk the owners “might need someday?” Or who refused to get rid of any clothing until it literally fell apart to the point where it could no longer be repaired? Almost without exception, “They lived through the Depression” was part of their story, and an explanation for their behavior. The Great Depression didn’t just change their lives, it changed their mindset. It definitely influenced them and played a defining role in their lives.

I suspect the same thing will happen as a result of the pandemic. Years from now, we will still feel its influence and the changes in ourselves – and the world – that came about during and because of it.

This makes me wonder what memories we will have of it. What defining roles it will have played in our lives. And what will come to mind for our children, grandchildren, and others in generations to come when they look back and reflect on – or read about – how this particular world event influenced those of us who lived through it.

October 25, 2021
©Betty Liedtke, 2021

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