By Sherry Morris
On January 1, 2000, I sent out an email asking people how they celebrated the turn of the century. Here are the twenty responses:
1. Jeanette of Sydney, Australia
“I spent last New Years Eve with one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known, whom I met for the first time that afternoon. Cally was confined to her wheelchair the whole evening, due to her cerebral palsy, but that sure didn’t stop her taking part in the celebrations however she could. I was her new live in care-er, and we spent most of the night in the family’s sun-room, on the side of the house that overlooks the great Sydney Harbour, the prefect spot to see both the 9:30 and the spectacular midnight fireworks displays.
We ‘talked’ for hours about everything, from our lives to world events, as we watched the festivities in the harbour and her sister’s friends partying outside. She couldn’t speak as such, but pointed to a complex layout of words, letters and numbers on the tray of her chair to say what she wanted to say. And Cally had plenty to say. I learnt that night that she was no ordinary twenty-year-old, and I also learnt what it meant to triumph over difficulty, in ways I’d never imagined. And as a I was putting her to bed at about 1:30 that morning, for the first time in my 25 years on this earth, I stayed up past midnight on New Year’s Eve and had a really great time in the process.”
2. Steve of Northern Virginia
“We were living in one of the four apartments in the large Queen Anne Victorian we’d been demolishing in preparation for renovating to a single family home. Two adults, three kids and a cat and dog in two rooms plus a bathroom. It was very cramped. A neighbor had invited the ‘new folks’ to come to a New Year’s party, so my wife and I went across the street to meet all the other folks who live on our part of Main Street. The mood was completely festive, most of the folks were very technically astute and knew quite well that although their billing systems may have a minor hiccup or two, the utilities weren’t about to go offline, nor would society as we knew it crumble. The countdown occurred just as it always had and passed just as uneventfully.
We did get a special treat, though. The home we went to had a multiple fireplace central chimney just like we had. And once we got back to our house across the street, we realized that there was a wall in the teeny tiny kitchen of our apartment which was hiding a third fireplace which had been bricked up 30 years earlier! We spent the better part of an hour after midnight chiseling and removing drywall to uncover our newfound treasure.”
3. Charles of Austin, Texas
“I fell asleep around 9PM and didn’t wake up until the next morning- really! I meant to just take a nap but I guess exhaustion set in. The reason I was so exhausted was (I guess) probably a lack of bright sunlight, coupled with a busy work schedule that involved canvassing neighborhoods in my area to generate support for the removal of a dangerous 50 year old pipeline, that had been lying dormant for many years, but was about to go back into service pumping flammables like jet fuel and gasoline. Previously it was used for pumping only crude oil, which is like mud and nonflammable. This same line was responsible for the death of a little boy in another town when it exploded and burned him. The thought of the avarice and total lack of apprehension on the part of the corporation to use it really angered and tired me out.”
4. Patrick of Tampa, Florida
“I spent last new Years Eve by myself, sitting on the hood of my pickup truck, parked on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, which runs across Tampa Bay. It was very quiet, and I saw several fireworks displays. It was kind of peaceful.”
5. Kristina of South Central Indiana
“I was online chatting with my brother in Florida, my sister in Texas, and my Mom, who lives about 15 miles from me. My husband was on the road (truck driver) at the time. We thought it was great to be talking through two different time zones, two different years, two different centuries, and two different millenniums. Still, I know all this doesn’t really happen until New Year’s this year, but who am I to mess with the masses.”
6. Gary of Durham, North Carolina
“I attended a New Year’s party at a friend’s house in Cincinnati and flew back New Year’s Day without the slightest qualm.
In 1999, a fellow I know in Florida, someone who has written software for what are called “embedded systems” (computer controlled devices such as traffic lights), joined the crowd loudly warning of the alleged coming Y2K catastrophe. I made a bet with him that the promised catastrophe would prove trivial. To his credit, at the start of January, he immediately acknowledged that he had been wrong. For all I know, he now programs ballot counting machines.”
7. Joyce of Palm Bay, Florida
“My husband and I went to friends’ houses--left one party about 11 and went to the second. We watched the Times Square ball drop and toasted each other with ginger ale. I am a home care nurse and I worked that day. I went from home to home seeing my patients, about eight in all. At each home, the TV was on and I got to watch the New Year come in each country around the world. Most of these patients were over the age of 80, one of them 98. They all said the same thing: that they never imagined they’d live to see this day. When I was younger it seemed that 2000 (and age 51) was so very far away. I could not imagine then--all that my life holds now.
I asked my children (5 of them, mostly adults) to take a photo of themselves on New Year’s Eve and write their aspirations for the new year, century and millennium. The children’s two grandmothers and I also wrote our memories of our lives and thoughts about this momentous event in our lives. One of my children proposed to his girlfriend at midnight and this was also captured in picture and prose. All of this was done on special paper with acid free pens and the photos were mounted with the writings. I have a memory book that is supposed to last for one hundred years or more to share with our descendants what this moment in time felt like and meant to us.”
8. Jean of Fredericksburg, Virginia
“The boys stayed up to greet the new year for the first time in their lives. We were very excited about the turn of the century, but we were apprehensive about possible terrorist activity in New York or Washington. Nothing materialized...thank goodness.
To ring in the new year, we decorated brown paper lunch bags and stuffed them with our wishes for the new year and new century. We blew air into the paper bags as the clock approached midnight. When the clock struck twelve, we popped the bags. It was a festive way for the family to celebrate!”
9. Anna of Falmouth, Cornwall, England
Anna works in a building society (similar to a savings and loan). “We had warned people to get all the cash they needed, in case there was a problem with a millenium bug of any sort! Also, we had a lot of plans for how we would operate without the systems, should they fail! We had added security in place, expecting raids and people taking advantage of any problems if they did occur. But in the end, it was all very peaceful, and I don’t think there were any hitches at all.
I went to St. Ives. This is a small harbour town in Cornwall, where there is a tradition of everyone dressing up and going out in the town for the night. Well I was boring and didn’t want to dress up, and honestly, Roy and I were two of only about ten people who weren’t! Little did I know, people in that town spend months thinking up what to go as! A terrible one as Kurt Cobain was walking around with a shot gun. I laughed, I was so shocked! Some great Ghost Buster types, all in boiler suits, they carried an alien on a huge float. Thousands of people in the streets of this little town, pubs selling drinks out of their windows (everyone is allowed to drink in the streets that night). And all the time, the lights were twinkling in the harbour, as the tide came in. Roy and I had a bottle of wine each, which we got through eventually! It was really cold! I remember thinking it was great to be spending the start of 2000 as I intended to end it, with Roy. At midnight, there was a huge fireworks display over the pier! It was fantastic!”
10. Elson of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
“I celebrated with friends I knew from university. We watched the Y2K celebrations on TV and had champagne. I did have to work at 6AM the next morning, at a major banking call centre. Many of my colleagues did work overnight, in anticipation of record customer call volume. Those who worked included phone reps, managers, and IT people on standby. They enjoyed a great time consuming lots of food and movies (not to mention extra pay).”
11. Tara of Southwestern Pennsylvania
“We attended a house party with in-laws. At the stroke of midnight, as we sipped our chosen drink, the lights went out. This was after one brother-in-law managed to break two bottles of sparkling grape juice that was on hand for the kids (talk about a sticky mess). Turns out another brother-in-law flipped the breaker. He turned it back on, a few seconds after everyone’s collective gasp.”
12. Pepper of Cleveland, Ohio
“I was at a bar with some friends. My husband is a prosecutor for the city. Since the mayor was fearing pandemonium, he made all the prosecutors (who carry badges) work the streets too. It was totally unnecessary but they didn’t know that till after of course. My creepy ex-friend used midnight as an opportunity to give me an inappropriate kiss.”
13. Sherry of Woodbridge, Virginia
An at home mom for a decade, I’d never attended a party on New Year’s Eve. Before the century departed, I wanted to have some fun. My extraordinary husband took time off to stay home tending to our little ones, enabling me to rendezvous with friends in Sunrise, Florida. We spent two evenings with the Bee Gees at the National Car Rental Center: the sound check rehearsal December 30th, and the concert on the 31st.
The Bee Gees are brothers: Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. They are remarkably receptive and appreciative to their fans. I found them to be very warm, giving and a lot of fun. Their impeccable vocal range, from baritone to falsetto, and superb three part harmony, coupled with their infectious melodies to rock the venue. At the concert, shortly before midnight, the Bee Gees left the stage to be with their families. Comedian Hal Sparks, who had been the opening act, reappeared. A live shot of Times Square was on the big screen behind him. “Five, four, three, two, one...” The crowd of 12,000 sang Auld Lang Syne. A loud rapid fire of pops pierced the arena. Momentarily terrified, I cowered. The noise emanated from gold balloons dropping, popping as they hit the floor, interspersed with red, silver and pink confetti. The Bee Gees returned for an electrifying encore of You Should Be Dancing. Intoxicated from the music, mesmerized in their Irresistible Force fields, and raging with Night Fever, the house lights shocked me. I thought the Bee Gees would perform forever. Really, I did. It was over. They were gone.
The floor was awash with spilled champagne, plastic stemware and empty liquor bottles. We VIP’s waited as security separated our black souvenir folding chairs. They had thick, cream colored seat and back cushions, emblazoned with a BG2K logo. Police arrested two young men attempting to sell stolen chairs outside.
In the evening on New Year’s Day, I unavoidably attracted attention as I clumsily carried my BG2K chair through the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (American Airlines let me stow in an overhead compartment). A young male flight attendant trailed me to the gate, curious about the concert. Lining up to board the plane bound for Reagan Washington National Airport, Bob Dole drolled “I see you’ve brought your own seat.”
14. Deb of Canberra, Australia
“Well we spent our Y2K Eve with Sandra and her family. We waited patiently till midnight, had a glass of champers and drove home. We could watch fireworks from the front windows, others let off. It wasn’t as big in Canberra as it was say, Sydney. We knew all along that there wasn’t going to be any Y2K bugs, as my Bro had been working on it for the Northern Territory Gov. He spent the most boring NYE sitting in the office, just in case.”
15. Noel of Limerick, Ireland
“I was very ill over Christmas - some form of flu that swept the country at the time, and only slightly better for New Year’s. I spent it in my sister’s house: me, my mother and father, my sister and her husband, and their two children for awhile. My father fell asleep at about five to midnight, woke at a minute past, not really overwhelmed by the whole thing (neither was I), there was a few embraces dished out, naturally, and I couldn’t help thinking that all this End of the World malarkey is just that - malarkey. Next New Year’s is the one I’m waiting for (I’m going to synchronize my DVD player to show Kubrick’s Starchild from 2001 on the stroke of midnight, and I just might go ahead and put a big black monolith in my driveway in the dead of night....”
16. Nadine of Prague, Czech Republic
“I had my sister and her husband from Spain staying over at our place. One of my best friends told us she was invited to a party (organized by a girl from our old school) at the Swedish embassy in Prague and told us to come, too. We thought it was a great idea but felt a bit uncertain because we hadn’t been invited by Andrea (the ambassador’s daughter) personally, and I hardly knew her. When we arrived there, Andrea was quite surprised about it and she said she was a bit upset (that so many more people had come than expected) but she also said we should stay. Most of the 200 people there were Germans. We were offered all kinds of snacks: pasta salad, cold pizza, some sweet stuff. The bar offered all sorts of drinks, from beer to vodka to champagne and non alcoholic drinks. We had the whole first floor for ourselves. One of the rooms was the disco, they played all kinds of music there and many were dancing. At midnight, most went outdoors on the balcony from where you had a lovely view over the Old Town of Prague! I was quite disappointed with the fireworks. I would have expected some bigger ones for a beautiful city like Prague, but after about 20 minutes, everything was over...I dunno, it was a disappointment. Most people at the party got really really drunk after midnight and we stayed till about 4 AM.
17. Jill of East Central New Jersey
“For years, I was the only one saying nothing is going to happen. New Year’s 2000 will be just like any other, with the exception of extra parties and maybe a computer glitch. The world will not end, we will not meet our fate, yadda yadda yadda... And by about October, the hype about Y2K had me freaked out. I thought that maybe the world COULD come to an end, or that everything electric could shut down and leave us in a black demise. Well, the day finally came. There were no bugs around my area. I stayed in my house, with my parents, watching the TV to see the ball fall. I was painting something with mint green nail polish and was rather depressed that I didn’t have a true love to kiss at midnight. I twirled a noisemaker when the ball fell, and then went to bed since I was half asleep anyway.”
18. Clive of Adelaide, Australia
“Although my family lives in Australia, we wanted to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000 with something that the children (ages 7 and 12) would remember as ‘an event’. So we planned a 3 month trip around it! San Francisco/Washington DC (where we had Halloween), England (Guy Fawkes night, Christmas & New Year), Florida/Los Angeles and home.
New Year’s Eve was spent in London, on the banks of the Thames, opposite the London Eye, to watch the fireworks, along with 3 million other people. The prospect of so many people together was pretty frightening (3 times the population of the city we come from) in the one place. Overall though, the event was exhilarating, even with the cold and the walk back to our apartment after in the rain. The crowd, with a couple of minor exceptions was well behaved and friendly, and helped to make it a tremendous experience for us.”
19. Mandy of Leeds, Yorkshire, England
“There was a real hype here leading up to New Years, practically from January 1999! Everyone was panicking where to go, babysitters, etc. We decided go with some friends to the local pub/disco type place. We paid a fortune for the night to secure entry. It was a real let down though, there were some fireworks at midnight but the crowd was very tame. We learned that they were letting people in on the door for free when we’d paid a fortune! It was ok, but to be honest, I preferred previous New Years, much more relaxed, less hype, more snogging hubby!”
20. Linda of Gilbert, Arizona
“The idea of spending New Year’s Eve 2000 in Paris was my husband’s brainchild. I’d asked how he wanted to celebrate, and he said since it was an historic occasion, we should make it an evening to remember (we usually stay at home.) Naturally we both thought we should spend it in one of the most romantic cities in the world. We offered to take our adult children and pay half their way (we have six between us). Most of the people we told about it worried about Y2K. What would happen if everything went down and we couldn’t get home? I shrugged. Gosh, what a horrible fate. We’d have to stay in Paris longer. We had not a single Y2K glitch.
We had a romantic many coursed dinner as Parisians do, with the requisite many bottles of wine, and then we took to the streets, bringing our champagne along. At the stroke of midnight, my husband and I were standing on a bridge over the River Seine, with Notre Dame on one side, and on the other, the Eiffel Tower, which we watched burst into a spectacular display of light and sound. We were thousands of miles from home and with thousands of other people, most of whom spoke a different language, but ultimately, in welcoming the future, we all spoke the same language.”
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