Party over, fireworks spent, the world awoke yesterday to a fresh start and a sweet surprise: Nearly everything worked and no one had attempted any new terror.
Father Time cupped his generous hand over the fears and worries of the world as 2000 was born into a day of peace, 1/1/00--zeros and ones aptly signifying the dawn of the digital millennium.
The hype receded, as did the mounds of trash left over from exotic, if somewhat forced, celebrations. And a certain suspicion mounted: Had all the worry, all those intimations of calamity, been merely a case of millennial jitters?
In the sleepy Pacific nation of Fiji, the first Sunday of 2000 was celebrated much as any other, with morning church services and beach parties. The dreaded Y2K computer crisis never made it to Fiji, and an assistant police commissioner, Moses Driver, said: "The Y2K bug was the biggest and the last fraud of the century."
Everywhere, normalcy displaced hype. On Massachusetts Avenue in the District, the Countdown to the Millennium display outside the U.S. Naval Observatory grounds stood blank, finished. Messiah-cam, an online camera trained at the Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, last night showed an empty space around the cylindrical chapel at the site where Scripture says Jesus ascended to heaven. And in the streets of London, sweepers collected four times the trash normally found after a New Year's Eve.
There were an unusual number of bomb threats, some of which delayed celebrations. If you searched for it, trouble could be found: a drunken brawl here, a despairing homicide there. In remote northern South Africa, a gunman opened fire at a New Year's party, killing four men.
At the U.S. border with Canada near Alexandria Bay, N.Y., U.S. Customs officials late Friday night stopped a man from entering the country after he made threatening statements about exploding something. The man, whom officials would not identify, was turned over to Canadian authorities.
In New York, a pipe bomb exploded outside a catering business on 46th Street between 10th and 11th avenues at 7:30 a.m. yesterday, causing little damage and injuring no one. New York's police commissioner, Howard Safir, said the bomb may have been related to labor disputes with the caterer.
In North Bay, Ontario, the earth moved--literally, as the Canadian Geological Survey recorded a moderate earthquake that registered 5.2 on the Richter scale--yesterday morning. The 10-second tremor, the most powerful to strike the area since 1935, rattled dishes for 200 miles around, as far south as Rochester, N.Y., but no injuries or serious damage were reported.
But after all the warnings and all the precautions, that was it. The story was survival, not disaster. From brass gongs in Asia to the 1,070-pound Waterford crystal ball that dropped over the dizzy decadence of Times Square, the year 2000 was ushered in with self-conscious public celebration.
The fireworks were unique, spectacular. The Washington Monument emerged from its fiery starring role in the capital's show unscathed. But not everyone felt like greeting 2000 with a slam bang. Many parties were canceled at the last opportunity, either because of lack of interest or threat of terrorism; many other event organizers announced that ticket sales had been disappointing.
In Los Angeles, relieved authorities exhaled after one of the safest holiday nights in memory--a result city officials credited to the huge number of nervous residents who simply camped at home. Five city-sponsored New Year's celebrations around the region each drew only a few thousand people.
"All that hype," said Trevion Stokes, a Los Angeles police officer on duty at a city emergency center. "For the last seven months, and especially the last few weeks, I feel like all I ever heard about was Y2K. I guess there's always going to be hype, but man, this was absolutely phenomenal. And now today, no one is really even talking about it. It's just another day."
Were all those no-shows thumbing their noses at the loudest riffle of calendar pages in history? Not necessarily. Many were safe at home, phoning relatives and preparing their own parcels for posterity: homemade time capsules, letters from parents to children, lovers' embraces designed to be remembered forever.
And there was television, living up to its hype for once, displaying the dazzling array of human behavior around the planet.
Amid the joyful noises, quieter moments stood out. Hundreds gathered at West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec, Maine, the nation's easternmost point, shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday to witness the first sunrise of 2000. They sang the Star-Spangled Banner by the dawn's early light.
They could breathe easy. The Y2K bug appeared to have been eradicated, swept off the table of global worries by a concerted application of high-tech Raid, as a virtual army of consultants and government computer mavens painstakingly rejiggered old machines to recognize the march of time.
Phones, power, air traffic, trains, street lights--check. "All bug and no bite," concluded the Singapore Straits Times.
At Missouri's Y2K Operations Center in Jefferson City, the state's chief information officer, Mike Benzen, valiantly tried to provide news nuggets. His best offering: In Brookfield, balloons from a New Year's celebration tangled in power lines and caused a 20-minute power outage in one neighborhood.
Governments and businesses worldwide spent an estimated $500 billion identifying and fixing the computer snafus, but had it been necessary? There were a few scattered computer glitches that resulted from old machines that had not been programmed to recognize the flip from the 1900s to the 2000s.
U.S. and French military officials reported minor incidents. The Pentagon said it could not process information from a reconnaissance satellite system for several hours Friday night because of a Y2K problem. On the Everything2000.com website, the date appeared as January 1, 192000. In Alabama, the bracelet placed on new mother Ligia Christl's wrist at Huntsville Hospital just after midnight on New Year's Day listed newborn Julia Amalia Christl's age as 100.
But the problems were small enough that everyone could chuckle over the boy in England who cut the cables to his home computer because he thought bugs were trying to crawl in.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency immediately announced that it will cut by half the 700 people it had searching for Y2K bug problems at 10 centers around the country.
White House Y2K czar John A. Koskinen admitted that "one of the questions you've begun to see surface a little around the edges is, 'Well, has this all been hype?' "
"The Y2K computer bug has been rendered harmless," Ralph Beedle, chief nuclear officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute, declared flatly.
But some techies insisted that the way is not yet clear, that computers might still act up over the next few days or weeks. The Gartner Group, a technology research company, said that less than 10 percent of all Y2K failures will happen right away and that most will strike over the course of the year. But how many will listen seriously to such concerns now?
In Austin, where more than a quarter-million revelers welcomed the new year, Alvin Moulden stood on Congress Street on the morning after, watching workers dismantle a mammoth stage. Knowing almost nothing about computers, Moulden said he believed all the warnings about Y2K and woke up yesterday a bit surprised to see the world still functioning.
"We were sitting right there contemplating it just before midnight," said Moulden, 49, laughing and pointing to a bench near an office tower. "We figured all the rich people were going to check their computers to see how much money they had, and it was going to come up zeros. And we'd be seeing them all jumping out of those windows up there." He shook his head and added: "It was just hype and all that, I guess. The lights are on. People have their money."
His friend, Vincent Fagen, 31, sipping coffee after a night of merry-making, was not so sure the danger has passed. Fagen, like Moulden, didn't bother stocking up on emergency supplies but, he said, "I just thought it was all going to end--electricity going off, elevators crashing and what not. But it's not over yet. It's only the first day. The year's just beginning."
Scott McPherson, Florida's state Y2K coordinator, admitted he had been worried New Year's Eve, although not in the way he had feared. "We were worrying about falling asleep around here," he said at his Tallahassee headquarters after an all-night vigil.
But McPherson said authorities did not overreact to the mysterious possibility of widespread computer failure. "We'll never know what might have happened had we not engaged in what we engaged in," he said. "For any of the Monday morning quarterbacks out there who might have speculated that this was going to be a non-event anyway, I would disagree very vehemently and show them reams of data to back me up. We're not out of the woods yet."
And at least some laymen were willing to accept that. "I don't feel bamboozled in the least," said John Kerekes, a political consultant from Germantown, Md., who worked laboriously New Year's Eve making sure his home computer was backed up. He has only contempt for those who say the vast Y2K preparations were for naught. "Isn't hindsight wonderful?" he said.
Somebody out there bought all those gallons of water and packages of batteries that were missing from supermarket shelves for the past week. But it was hard to find anyone to admit it yesterday. "Not even candles," Shams Uddin, manager of Manhattan's Broadway Diner, said proudly.
"I bought gallons of water and double-A batteries," volunteered Raymond Aristed, one of the diner's waiters. But then he laughed and confessed, "I didn't buy anything. The thing that worried me most was terrorism."
The threat of terrorism remained just that, even though it caused the cancellation of some festivities and a ratcheting up of security at many others.
In Anchorage, Alaska, a fireworks celebration was briefly shut down and 20,000 people were evacuated from a downtown neighborhood late Friday after a bomb threat. Police found nothing.
President Clinton and his wife delivered the traditional Saturday radio address jointly after having stayed at the White House millennial party until 3:30 a.m. "We're deeply grateful that the celebrations were both jubilant and peaceful, here and all around the world," Clinton said.
And for all those apocalyptics, millennialists and conspiracy buffs around the world who had spent the latter days of the 1900s warning that the end was nigh--we're still here!
In Jerusalem, where authorities were so nervous about apocalyptic fringe groups that they tripled the security presence around the city Friday, all was quiet on a fairly typical Saturday Sabbath. Police had arrested several dozen visitors in recent weeks on suspicion they might turn violent with the new year. On New Year's Eve they detained at least two more, including one who announced he had been sent by God and another who shouted, "The end of the world has arrived!"
The lack of tumult this weekend is no guarantee that the Holy Land is finished with eccentric prophets and extremists who believe the year 2000 heralds the end of days, experts say. Israeli psychiatrists report a sharp increase in cases of "Jerusalem Syndrome," a condition in which travelers who are overcome to be walking in Jesus's footsteps sometimes fancy themselves Biblical figures.
Gregory Katz, a psychiatrist who runs the emergency room at the Jerusalem Mental Health Center, said he had seen five cases of "Jerusalem Syndrome" in the past week--not counting those brought in by police New Year's Eve. About 60 such cases were reported last year, nearly twice the usual annual number. Most were Europeans and Americans. Katz says he is prepared for a further increase this year.
"The place to be a prophet is Jerusalem," he said with a wry smile.
In much of the non-Christian world, the year 2000 was someone else's holiday, a TV spectacle that did not jibe with the Muslim, Hindu, Hebrew and other calendars. In Cuba, where New Year's is ordinarily a big deal, the Castro government spurned millennial celebrations, decreeing that the global party was a year too early because the new millennium actually starts in 2001.
One hundred years ago, The Washington Post welcomed the new century without a word about it on the front page, choosing instead to focus on insurgency in the Philippines and customs fraud in Cuba. Inside the paper, a story noted that "with a faint flicker and feeble sputter, the candles of 1899 were snuffed as the clocks struck the hour of 12." There was fresh snow on the ground and sleigh bells echoed through the city's streets.
The sounds a century later were more piercing. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, the singer whose anthem "1999" dominated the airwaves over the past two New Year's weekends, yesterday saw his vision of apocalypse dissipate in the quiet advent of a new day.
But when I woke up this mornin', could've sworn it was Judgment Day
The sky was all purple, there were people runnin' everywhere
Tryin' 2 run from the destruction, U know I didn't even care
Cuz they say 2000 zero zero, party over, oops, out of time!
Contributing to this report were correspondents William Drozdiak in Berlin, Lee Hockstader in Jerusalem, Steven Pearlstein in Toronto and Keith B. Richburg in Fiji, and staff writers William Claiborne in Chicago, Paul Duggan in Austin, Lynne Duke in New York, Sue Anne Pressley in Miami, Rene Sanchez in Los Angeles and Fern Shen in Washington.
CAPTION: At the U.S. Naval Observatory in the District, the Countdown to the Millennium clock was blank yesterday after a night of celebration.
CAPTION: Sam Gaudet, left, and Alek Jadkowski, both 13, await the nation's first sunrise of 2000 in Lubec, Maine.
CAPTION: Robert Britz, left, group executive vice president of the New York Stock Exchange and chief technology officer coordinating the market's Y2K preparations, and NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso are all smiles as they talk on the trading floor of the exchange.