On March 10, 2019, Micah Messent sat in the Addis Ababa International Airport in Ethiopia, chatting with his four siblings through a group chat. He was on a layover, waiting to board his next flight to Nairobi, Kenya.
Micah was on his way to the upcoming United Nations Environment Assembly to meet with leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges facing their generation.
Amber Tansky, Micah’s sister, recalls him commenting on the hot weather and his excitement about the upcoming conference.
“We were like, ‘we’re so proud of you,’ and we razzed him a bit, fully expecting the next time we’d hear from him would be in Kenya,” said Amber.
Later that day, the Boeing 737 Max 8, carrying Micah and 156 others, went down six minutes after take-off.
There were no survivors.
Micah, 23, was the youngest of five siblings, but a large age gap did not impact the close bond they all shared. By all accounts, Micah had an impact on everyone he met, with his friendly smile and outgoing personality.
“Everyone who’s lost somebody has this hole left behind,” said Amber. “But with Micah, you just kind of feel like you’ll never be the same.”
Micah had never flown until about two and a half years ago when he unexpectedly got a ride back to Courtenay from Victoria in a friend’s plane.
Growing up in Courtenay, Micah’s family didn’t have the money to do much travelling, but spent a lot of time exploring different communities on Vancouver Island and visiting Ucluelet, where their grandmother lived.
Once he began working with B.C. Parks, Micah became no stranger to flying, often going up in small planes in all sorts of weather to get to remote communities across B.C.
He had gotten himself through university debt free with the help of bursaries, scholarships and a lot of hard work, and in late 2013, graduated from Vancouver Island University with a degree in Indigenous studies. Shortly after he began working with B.C. Parks through the Indigenous Youth Intern Program, and after his year-long internship was complete, he was hired on as an Indigenous relations analyst to set up programs and run workshops about Indigenous reconciliation.
Micah was Metis and his mother, Suzanne Camp, made sure each of her five children grew up with an understanding and love of their culture.
When he was young, Micah started school in the Aboriginal Head Start preschool program in Courtenay and was always interested in learning more about his ancestry and culture. When he enrolled in University, he had one goal in mind – to pursue Indigenous law.
This past year, he had begun working towards law school by taking some online courses while working.
“He could see that there were so many positive things happening, but also seeing that there were so many positive things that could happen in the future and that he could have a part of that and be a part of those positive changes,” said Suzanne. “You just don’t know what Micah would have done if he was still alive. He could have had another 60 years to change laws and speak for people who couldn’t speak for themselves.”
Suzanne knows he would have done well in Indigenous law. He was so friendly, smart, outgoing and well spoken. He always made sure everyone was comfortable and treated everyone as equals.
In the government building where he worked in Victoria, his beaming smile and friendly personality were well known around the office. Micah made a point of talking to and greeting as many people as he could in every department, even unabashedly asking a visiting federal minister to go for a beer to chat about environmental issues.
Micah’s passion for the environment started early in life. His grandfather had worked for Parks Canada and the whole family spent lots of time outside in nature. But on frequent drives to and from the west coast of Vancouver Island, the effects of climate change started to become more noticeable for Micah – and he wasn’t one to just sit back and do nothing.
“You could see a lot of logging changes and the way the rivers would change… you would see a lot of garbage floating up in the ocean and stuff like that,” said Suzanne. “We just felt that was a better place to be, out in the environment. And then being there, you realize things need to be taken care of.”
In 2018, Micah was accepted to take part in the Ocean Bridge program and became one of 40 to travel to Haida Gwaii to learn about and implement marine conservation initiatives.
It was through this program he became connected with Mountain Equipment Co-op and became a panelist in a discussion about diversity in the outdoors following a film screening in early 2018.
It was also through Ocean Bridge that he heard about the UN Environment Assembly and became one of the Canadian youth representatives.
“We always used to say that everything always worked out for Micah,” said Amber. “And he manifested his own destiny because he just had confidence in himself and he had this idea that if it didn’t work out, something else would.”
A family photo taken in 2011 hangs in Suzanne’s dining room, which she looks at fondly. There have been a few new additions to the family since then, most recently baby Calder, who turned one the day after the devastating crash.
“We do have some comfort because we know Micah loved us and we know that he knew how much we loved him,” said Amber.
Even though Micah had been living in Victoria, away from family, he always made a point of coming back up Island to see his family, nieces, nephews and friends.
Sitting in the dining room of the home Micah grew up in, Suzanne points to a spot near the kitchen island. Every time Micah came in the house, that’s where he would stop to tell her how much he loved her, no matter how much of a hurry he was in.
“He must have said I love you a million times, easily,” said Suzanne, tears shining in her eyes. “He was such a sparkle in our lives. He was such a nice energy to be around. How do you talk about that because you miss it so much when he’s gone. I just hope this never happens again to any family in the world.”
When not at work, he could often be found on a beach somewhere or sitting by a fire with friends and his girlfriend, Kidston Short. He was a self-taught guitar player and loved music, and also had a hard time turning down a good vintage thrift store find.
Micah was talented and kind and left an impression on everyone he met – from the customers he helped when he worked summer jobs at Gladstone’s, Cornerstone and Fluid Bar & Grill, to the fellow patrons who got to witness his karaoke rendition of I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston.
To remember Micah’s life, the family is holding a Celebration of Life on May 18, 2019 – what would have been his 24th birthday – at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds. Family and friends are welcome to join for a short ceremony starting at 2 p.m. followed by time to reconnect and share stories. Guests are also welcome to bring instruments to play music.
The family plans to start a scholarship in Micah’s memory to support other young changemakers who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education relating to the environment or Indigenous issues.
“We’re going to be able to facilitate some change for some people who have the ability and drive and passion but just can’t pay their tuition,” said Amber. “And what a shame that would be if there isn’t somebody else coming behind Micah trying to do the same things he was doing.”
Donations are accepted through their GoFundMe page or through their CIBC trust account, In Trust for Micah Messent, Account #1029819.