TORONTO -- On a quiet New Year’s Day, a Hamilton teacher invited her former students to open their carefully packaged time capsules from two decades ago to give them a glimpse into their past. 

Students from Julie Petis-Parco’s grade four/five split class met up Wednesday afternoon at St. Luke’s Catholic Church, behind their former elementary school, to open the boxes they packed on Dec. 22, 1999.

The boxes were full of old newspaper clippings, Pokémon cards, candy bar wrappers, as well as letters each student had written to their future self, and a letter their parents had written to them. 

But none of the boxes could be opened until Jan. 1, 2020.

hamilton time capsule

The now-retired school teacher was excited to see so many of her former students from St. Luke Catholic Elementary School arrive Wednesday, greeting each of them with a warm smile and hug.

One student, Martin Ciglenecki couldn’t be there. But his father arrived and used his iPhone to connect his son to the reunion over FaceTime.

From Edmonton, Ciglenecki told CTV Toronto that the entire experience has been surreal. 

“I didn't think that 20 years from now I’d be living in a different city, halfway across the country communicating over this device that I’m holding in my hand,” he said. “It’s pretty surreal.”

Another student, Laura Deluca, opened the letter to her future self. Smiling, she read a part of it out loud so the other people at her table could hear what she had written. 

“When I grow up, I probably want to be one of these things: a lawyer, to open a store, or a story writer,” the letter stated. 

time capsules

“I am a lawyer, so I think that’s pretty amazing how 20 years ago I said I wanted to be one, and I am one,” Deluca told CTV News Toronto. 

Sitting next to Deluca was Sonia Spalvieri, who hadn’t seen most of her former classmates in almost 20 years.

“I didn't realize how much of an impact it would be, 20 years later, what this would mean,” she said. 

“Reading the letters from my parents was really interesting, and really special.”

Petis-Parco, who recently retired, said the gathering was perfect.

“It’s just beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s the best day of my teaching career summed up, 32 years in one moment,” she told CTV News Toronto. 

Her favourite part about the entire project was the letters the students wrote to themselves, and the letters their parents wrote to them.  

capsule hamilton

“Who does that? Who sends a letter to their kid when they’re 10? But now they have this little gift, and they’ll always have this, no matter if their parents are alive or not, they’ll have this moment in their life to remember as an adult now,” she said. 

“We forget so much as kids.”

As the dozen or so students, along with some of their parents, chatted, Ciglenecki’s father was walking around the room with his phone in hand.

Ciglenecki’s smiling face could be seen on the screen as he caught up with his former classmates. He was even part of the updates class picture the group took, as one of his friends held up the phone for the picture.

It was a picture perfect finish to a day 20 years in the making.