Life’s details hidden in the moments

Russell
Russell Wangersky
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A Week That Changed Our World project this week

A Week That Changed Our World

They are the small stories, maybe even just small parts of a story that reporters never forget, and that readers should get to see.

In Halifax, the indigent man — nicknamed “Old Moldy” by university staff — who would not miss a public lecture on any subject, from physics to the humanities, as long as the event included refreshments. The rumour was that he’d been a student for a single semester before dropping out, decades before. Talk to him on any subject, even as he dug through nearby dumpsters for discarded sandwiches, and his grasp was both encyclopedic and impressively up to date. 

A St. John’s woman whose house was flooded by a blocked sewer main, describing how she’d tried to pack towels into her toilet to stop the flow, her own description breaking off mid-stream, looking off into the distance, reliving it all before saying thoughtfully, “It wouldn’t be so bad if it were your own.” 

A mowed path that arcs away from a square of South Shore formal Nova Scotia lawn, a trail 40 yards long and ending solely with a neatly kept square of grass and a handmade headstone for a much-loved family pet. A pet that died more than 10 years ago. 

Achingly poignant vignettes, small sketches of what it is to be alive. Every day, every week, the big news streams by us, touching us only on its familiar edges. Dead airplane passengers, known to us only in that many of us ride in planes and fear falling out of the sky, and because one of the victims was Canadian.

We read of forest fires that threaten others’ homes, but fires really only become menacing when you smell smoke yourself. Wars, with victims on both sides more than thrice removed from us, only the sheer size of the catastrophe bringing it closer. 

This project is a look at a different kind of story — the kind of story that resonates because you can imagine yourself being there, can remember a pang of loss, can feel the pinch of someone else’s shoes.

In this project, we’ve used the reach of all our TC Media Atlantic newspapers for stories that transcend geography — small crises of confidence, fingers swept through long hair, a stranger’s guiding hand on your elbow just as you lose your balance on stairs.

With images and video, we hope to bring you a week in the life of people throughout Atlantic Canada, a week that should be wonderfully familiar. 

While the particular week we focused on took place from August 11 to 17, we hope you’ll feel their weight of small moments as if they’re happening in front of you now. Because while not framed by sirens or press conferences, sometimes these casual happenings speak volumes about us — and our communities. 

Looking away from the televisions in a Wolfville, N.S. pub, I saw a man and his daughter watching the World Cup, unaware I was watching them. He was wearing the Dutch orange jersey; she, the blue and white stripes of Argentina. His face brightened, his arms went up in the air, he yelled — her face fell. Then, it was her arms in the air, with his expression startlingly close to grief. Back and forth, a teeter-totter story between them, untold but obvious.  

They still managed to share a plate of nachos. Watching the screen as they ate, sometimes their hands touched.

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