After Planet Earth’s party come relief, cleanups and some reflections on eras old and new
On the first morning of 2000 it was so quiet at Louisville International Airport in Kentucky that police officer Robin Cull sat down at the piano in the rotunda and played herself some songs.
”I was just serenading the lonely hallways,” she said.
A peace not unlike hers descended on planet Earth Saturday after the biggest world party in history. The fireworks and singing and dancing were over, the multimillion-strong crowds from Rome to Rio de Janeiro had scattered, and the cleanup crews moved in.
London estimated its litter at four times the normal amount, 15 percent of it empty champagne bottles. There were 35 tons of garbage to remove from the streets around New York’s Times Square.
”This is wonderful and historic,” said Stephen Freeze, 53, a postal worker, as he filled a plastic bag with bright, sparkling confetti. ”I figure we’ll send some to friends in Arizona, and some to Tulsa, Okla. …”
”This is the worst mess I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been cleaning up after New Year’s and after ticker tape parades for 15 years,” said sanitation worker John Hartmann.
Having gotten through midnight to find that ATM machines, subway trains, airports and electricity were functioning normally, people argued about the huge sums spent to fix the Y2K computer bug.
”I think they went overboard. Too much,” said Johnnie Bennett, interviewed at a Montgomery, Ala., pharmacy. ”They’re always saying the state needs more money. Then all of the money is spent on Y2K.” Alabama state officials said $120 million was spent on computer readiness.
”Better to be cautious than to be sorry in the end,” said Bruce Stolts, who works in a nearby electronics store.
Many more systems still await their Y2K test, starting Monday when the world – particularly the financial world – goes back to work and reboots its computers.
In Minnesota, the Duluth News Tribune summed up the rollover with a succinct ”Piece of Y2Kake.”
The New York Times’ headline said simply, ”1/1/00.” And for Roman numerals buffs, MCMXCIX became just plain MM.
Fighting raged in Chechnya and in many other corners of the world, but the 214-year-old Times of London was able to open its Jan. 1 editorial with the observation that ”This is the first century in the history of The Times which Britain has been able to greet as a nation not at war.”
After two world wars and the fall of communism, the paper said, ”most people believe another global conflict to be unthinkable.”
Still, it warned, traditional modes of warfare were giving way to new forms of ethnic and religious conflict that would need new peacemaking tactics in the 21st century.
The millennium helped put many Americans in a reflective mood.
Outside a supermarket in Conyers, Ga., Elva Martin, 73, thought of world wars and the Depression. ”I remember the young men coming around begging for food for their families,” she said. ”It just makes me wish that now we are starting a new century that all the killing would be over and we start opening our hearts to one another.”
Her daughter, Timmie Bailey, a 44-year-old insurance adjuster, said: ”It was just another day to me. I’ve got to go back to work on Monday. I do feel like the baby boom generation is incredibly lucky. They haven’t had to deal with anything like other people in this century like war or Depression and we ought to keep that in mind as we look ahead.”
Fred Miller, a retired chemist in Nashville, Tenn., felt upbeat. He said his family had an outhouse and no telephone when he was born in 1934, and on New Year’s Day 2000 he was shopping for his first home computer.
”When you consider what’s been accomplished technologically in the last 50 years, it could be twice that in the next 50,” he said. ”The sky’s the limit!”
Some looked for a religious dimension in the celebrations. Joseph W. McQuaid, publisher of The Union Leader in New Hampshire, asked in a front-page editorial: ”What is one to say about the end of a century, especially when it signals, popularly if not technically, the start of a new millennium?
”We might begin by saying God.”
But, he added, ”As far as we have come technologically and materially, we seem to have drifted remarkably from a belief in moral right and wrong. …”
And then there were those who didn’t get to share in the millennium bash, like the 11million people of Cuba.
The 41-year-old communist regime of Fidel Castro officially shunned millennium events, taking the purist approach that the new century won’t start for another year.
Instead, what began on the stroke of 2000 was the ”Year of the 40th Anniversary of the Decision of Fatherland or Death.” But some car horns honked in Havana at midnight nonetheless.