Y2K Waiting for the Apocalypse
The Sixth of My Seven Decades in America
As we waited for the clock to strike midnight on December 31, 1999, the world held its breath. We heard dire predictions about computers crashing throughout the world as the old two-digit date system in computers turned to 00. (1900 or 2000?) We expected computers to crash and chaos to cripple the world by the time the ball descended in Times Square. And yet, it was the largest New Year’s Eve party ever held during my Seven Decades.
In the end, the world didn’t collapse. I did check my computer, and everything seemed to be working normally after midnight.
The parties throughout the world were spectacular as we watched country after country celebrate the new century.
Commerce and banking continued to work normally, and the world finally began to relax after months of hype and fear.
A New Century
The biggest news of the year 2000 beyond New Years Day, was the contentious election of George W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States. We watched the hotly contested results in Florida, which eventually declared Bush the winner over Vice President Al Gore.
The education reform bill, “No Child Left Behind Act,” passed. (I’m outspoken on quality education for children everywhere.) They tested our youngest son with a genius-level IQ but found he had a learning disability. Whether his premature birth caused it or the extremely high fevers, he experienced in the early years will never be known. Although he was floundering in the public school system, he flourished when we entered him into a private Catholic school in middle school. They already had six other students with the same disability, and they worked closely with experts at Mayo Clinic in Rochester
They tested our youngest son with a genius-level IQ when he was young. Later we discovered he had a pesky learning disability. Whether his premature birth caused it or the extremely high fevers he experienced in the early years will never be known.
Although my son wasn’t receiving the help he needed in the public school system, he flourished when we entered him into a private Catholic middle school. That school already had six other students with the same disability and worked closely with experts at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
I believe the winning difference was in the Catholic nuns who presented the material in a way that my son could absorb quickly. Every child deserves these same opportunities. Parents have a right to find the best learning resources possible for their child.
Tragedy & Horror
No review of the decade after the turn of the century is complete without acknowledging 9/11.
Mike went to work at the regular time, but I stayed at home a little later than normal that day. I had an important appointment at TCF Bank at 10 A.M. and was just ready to close everything down and head out the door when I heard a gasp from the staff of Good Morning America announcing a second airplane heading into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
A second airplane? With my purse over my shoulder and my coat over my arm, I stood like a statue in front of the television. I watched with millions of Americans as a plane crashed into the second tower.
I stood in stunned silence before reaching for the phone. Mike picked up his business line immediately. Quietly, I told him it appeared we were under attack and that he and his co-workers needed to get to a television.
The Appointment That Wasn’t
The next call I made was to my boss. He said they were all in the conference room watching what was happening. He asked if I could still come downtown and keep the appointment. I agreed.
Our meeting was supposed to take place at the TCF offices in the IDS Tower in Minneapolis. When I arrived, it was obvious the news had already spread among the bankers. There was a solemn tone as I apologized for coming. The lender waved off my apology and told me it would be good to get everyone’s minds off the events still unfolding. We’d go ahead with the meeting.
He went off to check on the availability of the conference room as another man entered the room.
“I apologize, but the IDS Tower is a major target, and we have received orders to evacuate the building.
Stunned, I grabbed my purse and briefcase and stood up. The lender made the same announcement to the open room of desks as I started to walk past them all.
My feet stopped as I thought about the bus system being overwhelmed. “I’m headed south to Burnsville, does anyone need a ride?” No one responded, so I left the offices and headed outside.
The sidewalks were filled with people crying, pushing, and shoving their way along. Someone hit me hard from the left, and I stumbled toward the oncoming traffic. Before it was too late to save me, someone grabbed my arm and pulled me back. It was my firm’s lead attorney. He didn’t let go of my arm as he escorted me back to the NACM offices where I got into my car and headed home.
The day wore on as we tried in vain to find our friends. Our neighbor’s daughter worked at the Twin Towers and her son at the Pentagon. Mike’s coworker should have been in proximity to the towers at about the time the planes hit. The sister of one of my associates worked in the Twin Towers. I had friends who worked as flight attendants. We waited and waited.
By the end of the week, I found everyone safe except for the sister of my associate. I cried as he told me his sister didn’t make it out of the building. The horror permeated every corner of this great nation. We would discover that the four coördinated attacks were a terrorist effort by the group called Al-Qaeda.
Our fear continued to heighten when five people died of Anthrax poisoning sent through the U.S. Postal Service. As a nation, we were furious this happened and no one saw it coming.
The Millennial Generation Makes Music
If Madonna dominated the 1990’s, the bad girl theme rolled into the new Millennium like wildfire.
Fans followed singers like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Kylie Minogue, and P!nk. Bruce Springsteen was still playing to his faithful followers while Jay-Z delighted his fans. Bono sang about a junkie riding the subway while Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ made us believe the stars were shining for us.
Kanye West with the help of Jamie Foxx’s rendition of Ray Charles brought us ‘Gold Digger’ and Rihanna enchanted her fans with ‘Umbrella.’ Bob Dylan showed he still could move us at 70-years-young with ‘Mississippi.”
According to Rolling Stone the top ten songs of the decade were:
10. Eminem, ‘Stan’
9. U2, ‘Beautiful Day’
8. Amy Winehouse, ‘Rehab’
7. Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, ‘Maps
6. The White Stripes, ‘Seven Nation Army’
5. M.I.A., ‘Paper Planes’
4. OutKast, ‘Hey Ya!’
3. Beyonce’, ‘Crazy in Love’
2. Jay-Z, ’99 Problems’
1. Gnarls Barkley, ‘Crazy’
A Decade of Change
We saw the Patriot Act passage and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of 9/11. American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Queens, killing 265 passengers and we watched in horror as the Columbia disintegrated on our television screens over and over again.
It was the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom which eventually resulted in the capture of Saddam Hussein.
Life changed for so many as hurricanes Ivan, Jeanne, Frances, and Charlie hit the American Coastline in Florida. We buried President Ronald Reagan and re-elected President George W. Bush.
Nothing prepared us for what came next.
I’d already been awake for hours on August 28th when I called my brother in Gautier, MS at seven o’clock in the morning. They were sound asleep when the phone rang. Jay and his wife had experienced many hurricanes, and they based all their preparations on Camille. He hadn’t planned on leaving because his lower level was many feet above the 19-foot storm surge with Camille.
There was a feeling of instant shock when I told him they were predicting Katrina would reach a Category 5 before landfall. He listened as I explained how Mom called all night begging me to convince him to leave. She was in a nursing home, but she still had her television and her fears for her son were very real.
Jay agreed to check on the students to make sure everyone was leaving campus, and then they’d try to make it to Florida. It would be three days before we heard from him again. The highway to Florida didn’t work because cars were at a standstill, so they continued to drive north to Memphis. Katrina hit his house on August 29th, 2005. The waters reached the ceiling in his lower level. (They’d planned to ride out the storm safely in his office down there.
The storm surge pushed everything in the storage room against the door to that office. If Mom hadn’t been so dogged about me convincing him to leave, we’d join the families burying loved ones in the coming days.
We View the Damage
It would be six months later that we would see the damage for ourselves in Gautier and Biloxi, MS. I stood on the pieces of the old bay bridge in
Ocean Springs and cried as I looked across the bay toward Biloxi. We drove north to bypass the bay and down into Biloxi to the townhouse. We’d rented it the year before. A red sports car sat at the bottom of the swimming pool, and our unit was completely blown out…nothing remained but a shell. Another of the buildings was gone, as I gazed at the beach still littered with debris.
Roads were still impassable, and the beautiful mansions along the coast remained as nothing but cement stairs leading to a piece of foundation. The enchantment of the coast highway was in rubble. Mary Mahoney’s survived the storm surge because of the new Hard Rock Casino structure that hadn’t opened yet.
Roads were impassable everywhere. One large field was piled four stories high with refrigerators, stoves, televisions, washers, and dryers. All were hauled there to prepare them for landfill.
I pray we never experience anything like Katrina on our shores again.
La mia Bella Italia
How many moments in your life have been truly magical?
All my life, I’ve dreamed of visiting Italy. I suppose it all goes back to my love of ancient history. Mike made my dreams come true by arranging a series of private tours from Venice to Florence, and the Tuscany Valley to the city of Rome.
My oxygen levels must have been alarmingly low throughout the trip. I can’t even count the many ‘take your breath away’ moments.
We started our journey in Venice. I can close my eyes and still recapture the sights, sounds, and tastes of a region I longed to stay in for the rest of my life.
We spent the last five days of the trip in Rome, and it wasn’t nearly enough time. Touring Rome, there were moments when I was so overcome with emotion, that I couldn’t stop the tears pouring down my cheeks.
We travel from Wisconsin to Mississippi each year to visit my brother. The one thing I’ve grown to hate on those trips are the patched freeways
that shake the car as the tires go over one bump after another. It’s not only irritating to me, but it causes our blind dog, Cosmo, to have massive panic attacks.
My concern isn’t about my comfort or even about the dog’s complexes. The real reason I chose to add infrastructure to this blog post about the sixth of my seven decades in America is that we’re all at risk.
There is no greater lesson in that than the bridge collapse in Minneapolis of the I-35 Mississippi River Bridge. It’s ten years later, and I continue to feel the horror and terror of watching the events unfold as I tried to reach friends, customers, and most importantly my sons. We have become too complacent when it comes to our safety on the aging road and bridge systems that traverse this great land.
The End of the First Decade of a New Century-The Sixth of Seven Decades
President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act as a result of the financial crisis that threatened our economy in 2008. It provided for a $700 billion Treasury fund to buy failing banks.
Shortly after, we elected the first African-American man as President of the United States of America. Barrack Obama took office in 2009 as the 44th President. This new President added a $787 billion Stimulus Package to boost a lagging economy.
Michael Jackson died, as did 12 service members in the massacre at Ft. Hood.
Mike and I were preparing to leave Mississippi when the Deep Water Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. I remember standing on my brother’s deck and the stench of turpentine coming up the bayou. My brother would soon meet Jimmy Buffet, who donated a boat to help in the environmental disaster efforts all along the coastline.
By the end of the decade, we had two beautiful and talented grandchildren. My oldest son, Tom, and his wife Missy visited often. Bill followed my footsteps and rose to the level of Credit Manager within his job. Things were going well for all the children and grandchildren.
I started taking lessons in watercolor art down in Mississippi. Not only did I fall in love with the medium, but I found how relaxing it could be.
Mike and I both retired and loved being together without all the stress of the jobs. Although I believe we both experienced success in our working careers, there is nothing to compare to the love of spending more time with those you love.
It’s hard to believe I’ve survived these seven decades. I continue to strive for the kind heart my grandfather was known for during his lifetime.