Monday, September 03, 2007

Remembering a Princess

First off, I'd like to apologize for not posting this on Friday, I was a wee bit busy and went to my Dad's place, which is still in the stone ages and free of internet access.

I remember August 31, 1997 really well. The whole week, hell summer, was a period of intense turmoil for me. My mother, sister and I were in the process of moving from Ontario to Nova Scotia, and I was quite torn on the whole thing. I was looking forward to making a fresh start but nervous to leave my friends and the remainder of my family behind. Anyway, to make an insanely long story short, I decided at the last minute to move in with my dad and stay in Trenton and my flight back to Ontario was scheduled for August 31, 1997.

The night before I was busy packing and was quite anxious about the day ahead of me so I stayed up late playing on the old 486 that I had in my bedroom at the time and listening to the local Truro Radio Station when a news bulletin came on. I don't remember the exact wording, but it told me that Princess Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed, their bodyguard and the driver had been involved in a car accident which had killed the driver and left Diana and Dodi in critical condition. I was concerned for a moment, but ultimately indifferent, I was 14 years old and these were people I had never met after all. I eventually went to bed getting ready for the long emotional day I was about to face.

I wake up earlyish on my fateful day and as I just finish brushing my teeth and reach to turn the water on I hear a knock on the door. It was my mother, looking visibly shaken, told me that Princess Diana had died. To be honest, I thought that she was emotional since I was leaving, but in retrospect I think that it wasn't only my impending departure that had left her shocked.

After an emotional day, I leave for Toronto to be greeted by my dad and grandparents. After unloaded my stuff and complaining about the airline food, we head out to the car. I was shocked to see my dad talk to a complete stranger about how sad the events surrounding Diana were. I mean, talking to a stranger about another strangers business. It appeared so very odd.

Like everyone else, I was shocked at the events that followed, Buckingham Palace littered with flowers, intense US media coverage, the Queen staying in Scotland, the public backlash, the State Funeral, the Queen's eventual tribute, the traditionally stoic Brits bursting into tears, and of course a hit Elton John single. And like everyone else, I proceeded to allow these events to slip from my conscious and get replaced with my more immediate, tangible concerns.

Fast forward to April 2007. I was teaching in China, and the first lesson that I had to do was on British Politics and Culture. I had to watch the second half of the movie The Queen (which by the way is HIGHLY recommended) and then lead a discussion on it. Now I had never seen this movie before, and for those of you that haven't, it chronicles the Queen's tumultuous few days between Diana's death and funeral. It focuses mainly on the public backlash that she receives and how she responds to the situation. I found it especially powerful because it mixes in a variety of news clips from the time to add an intense sense of realism to the movie.

Due to my schedule, I had to repeat the lesson 6 times, each time I watched the movie I got more and more involved. I shook my head in disbelief every time I saw all of the flowers at Buckingham Palace and I was touched by the powerful words of Earl Spencer as he eulogized his sister. As I discussed the video with my classes I was amazed at how my perception of the events had transformed over a decade.

For some reason I missed Princess Diana, I wanted her to still be around, I wanted her to make a difference. I wondered what cause she would be fighting for right now. I imagined what would have happened if she had spoken out against the War in Iraq - would the Brits have even gone if she said no? How much awareness could she raise for Global Warming? What about AIDS? She did a ton of work for AIDS victims in her lifetime, how much more work could she have done in a decade?

Fast forward a little bit more to last Friday, the 10 year mark. I sit alone at my dad's place watching the news, and CBC does a special retrospective on Diana which I watch in amazement. I am amazed by all of Diana's achievements but ultimately I become amazed at myself. I was in awe of what I was doing, something that I hadn't done a decade before or 4 months previous when I was discussing it. I sat there and I cried.

Now I don't know if I was crying for a life lost, or for two motherless children, or for a better world, or maybe I was crying because I was reminded of my own personal situation.

It doesn't really matter why I cried, but the point is that I did cry, and after a decade of holding those thoughts in let me tell you, it felt good.

Until next time,


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