It Could Be Worse: Reflections on Growing Up in Un-Ending Disaster

by Kendall Bistretzan

I was born on May 8th, 1999. Eight months before Y2K: before the world was supposed to end. Sometimes I think it may as well have. 

On September 11th, 2001, I was two years old. I had no real stream of consciousness. I do not remember the act of terror that changed a country, but I’ve never known the world before. 

My first concept of war was not of our history, but of our present. Every conversation about war in my elementary school years was linked back to Afghanistan. We are making Christmas cards to send to the troops to Afghanistan. His dad was deployed to Afghanistan. No one ever told me how the conflict began, but it still rages on today. 

I was 10 years old when a magnitude 4.5 earthquake hit Haiti, half a lifetime ago. I understood that it was a disaster and that people died. I understood that the billions of dollars in damage would never be truly paid. But I was a child, and I lived in Canada, so there was nothing I could do but listen to that Waving Flag song and pray that the people who were more powerful than I would help.

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When the Earthquake happened, I felt like I understood its severity. I didn’t feel like a child. Then I found a picture of me when I was 10 and realized that being 10 years old is so much younger than it feels. 

On the morning of December 14th, 2012, I was sitting at the desk of my eighth-grade classroom. It was in the front right-hand corner of the room, half a foot away from my teacher’s desk. Her face fell the moment she read the news, and I knew it would be bad before she told us. “There has been a school shooting in the States,” she said, and I thought oh no that is terrible. Then she said “It was an elementary school. Kindergarten to grade four” and any semblance I had of a decent world was shattered. My parents remember where they were for 9/11, but I remember where I was when I found out that 20 children and 6 adults were shot to death just weeks before Christmas. I remember their names and their faces. 2012 was the year I stopped praying. 

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At age 13 it felt as though I had lost my innocence. I was lucky to have made it so far. 

But it never ends. I was 15 when I was standing in a hotel lobby, waiting for the rest of my fellow choirmates to leave for supper at the Old Spaghetti Factory when I saw on the lobby’s television that a 50-year-old man named Walter Scott was shot in the back by a police officer. Of course, he was black, and of course, he was unarmed, and I could only stare in disappointment, the same thought ringing through my head: Not again. A year later, age 16, I woke up for school, rolled over to check my phone, and found out that 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando and still I thought, Not again.

Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when I was 18. Eleven people were killed at a Synagogue when I was 19. Twenty-three people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso when I was 20. I remember these tragedies, but I can’t quite keep track of them because they just keep happening, again and again. 

Now I am 21 years old, and I only leave the house to buy groceries. I am unemployed. I saw a friend for the last time and didn’t even know it. 

It is a silent loss. One I know I cannot take personally because it could be so much worse. It is so much worse. 

But I am 21 years old and I am so tired of “worse.” Every day bad news is rammed down my throat. The Earth is dying and so are its humans. 

The older generations like to tell us it could be worse. 

They think they had it harder. 

And maybe they did, but bad news wasn’t accessible the way it is today. 

We are the cursed generation.

And I am so tired of “worse.”

 

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