The Year 2000 rolled over with the expected fanfare and disaster. Some computers died. Other systems thought they’d begun living a past life that began in 1900. Washington bureaucrats, not surprisingly, didn’t make hard decisions in time. Procrastinators in private industry committed the same mistakes. Committees studied issues to death and everyone lost. Vital programs remained unchanged. When computer clocks advanced to 00, they created the havoc foreseen by many. Social Security and Medicare payments stopped. One stock exchange crashed, causing millions of dollars’ worth of trades to disappear in cyberspace. Thousands of passengers were inconvenienced by the fumbling of a major airline whose flight timetables went berserk. The millennium bug affected people in every walk of life in one way or another.
Fortunately, that was the good news.
Spurred by predictions of global catastrophe and doomsday nightmares, many people opted not to face the turn of the century. In the midst of unrestrained celebration for the advent of the new millennium, mass suicides on New Year’s Eve, 1999, caused emergency police and fire crews to resort to drastic measures. Health officials took similar actions. Whole areas of cities were quarantined. As the body count rose, authorities stored corpses in private refrigerated vans and semi-tractor trailers until they could be autopsied. Many families lost more than one loved one on that awful night.
The portent of cataclysmic disaster also took other manifestations. Sightings of unusual cloud or water formations were common. Animal peculiarities created a stir. One man swore his entire litter of pigs was each born with two heads. Pictures normally seen in the National Enquirer routinely appeared in the New York Times. Hysteria was the order of the day.
In the months following that wild night, life slowly returned to normal. The changes to the computers were eventually made, people received their checks, the stock market hit new highs after its record decline, and travelers once again experienced predictable delays. Funeral homes and cemetery conglomerates reported record profits in the first two quarters.
The argument around which date denoted the true millennium died down because those supporting 2000 had had their day. In the aftermath of the last New Year’s Eve and all that had occurred, the advocates of 2001, as the year marking the real millennium, didn’t receive much press. They were ignored and ridiculed as anachronisms whose doomsday prophecies were ludicrous.
Perhaps their words should have been given more heed.