A Night To Remember

Robert Swanson insists he was never the kind of survivalist who actually wants the world to end. "I don't have the anger," he says. Even so, the massage therapist, 44, expected civilization to melt down on Jan. 1, 2000. "You look at all the possibilities," he says, "and you become convinced it's like throwing a superball into a room full of dominoes."

Swanson spent 18 months and more than $50,000 setting up a Y2K-ready homestead near Spokane. He installed $14,000 worth of solar panels. He collected a small arsenal of guns. He stockpiled enough food to feed four people for a year--although he lives alone. "Rationally it seemed the way to go," he says. "Emotionally it's been a struggle all the way."

He's not sure yet that Y2K was a false alarm. "The dice are still rolling," he says. "I don't like it either way. If society's heavily disrupted, that's no good. If nothing happens, it calls all my effort into question." His TV says the local police arrested fewer people this New Year's Eve than on a typical Friday night. Swanson laughs: "Maybe we should have a Y2K every night."

When Goldie Davage was growing up in Maryland, one of her favorite pastimes was parading in her rich uncle's horse and buggy. "Most people only had a mule," she says. Her grandmother, a cousin of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, used to tell stories about him, but Davage didn't pay much attention. "Children didn't stand around and listen to old people back then," she says. As she got older, Davage worked as a maid, eventually saving enough out of her $3 weekly salary to buy her own house.

For Davage, Jan. 1 meant more than a new millennium. It also marked her 100th birthday, celebrated with a party at her home in the Abundant Life Residential Care Center, in northwest Baltimore. Director Phyllis East says Davage is in almost perfect health and takes no medication. When she's not reading the newspaper or the Bible, she walks around the neighborhood. But Davage says the real secrets to her longevity are "a beer, a dance and being able to smile at young men."

The ER at San Francisco general was eerily quiet for a New Year's Eve, but the maternity ward was busier than ever. One expectant father wolfed down a pepperoni pizza, while another paced the peach corridor during a break from his job as labor coach. Twice the normal number of staffers--many decked out in fluorescent hats and glitter--helped deliver the first babies of the millennium.

Even when it became clear, at 10 minutes past 12, that another area hospital had beaten San Francisco General to the honor of ushering in the city's first millennium baby, the celebration went on. At 12:39, Guadalupe Martinez gave birth to Chelsea Michelle, who weighed in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces. All in all, six babies--including an Elvis--were born in the hours surrounding midnight. Carlos Prados said he and his wife had named their newborn son Christopher because they had "prayed to Cristo" for a millennium baby. At least his birthday will be easy to remember.

Midnight arrived in Tijuana with a ragged burst of New Year's Eve gunfire--and at that precise moment, Joaquin Diaz and Marco Ayala climbed the steel fence and dropped silently onto U.S. soil, hoping that U.S. Border Patrol agents would be too busy celebrating to catch them. They guessed wrong. Fearing that Y2K glitches would leave the frontier vulnerable to an alien stampede, the Border Patrol was out in force. Diaz and Ayala were quickly spotted by a technician monitoring a network of infrared cameras who radioed their position to agents on all-terrain vehicles. The ATVs charged through the darkness. Diaz and his friend lay flat but the agents found them anyway. Caught, frisked and detained for return to Mexico, Diaz became one of the first illegal border-crossers of the new millennium--an honor of sorts, even if it meant spending a few hours in custody. "Without money, this day is the same as any other," he said stoically. "We can't even buy beer." One Border Patrol agent lit a cigar to celebrate the first bust of the year, knowing there will be many more.

The Willow Praise Assembly of God sits in a strip mall 25 miles east of Cleveland, between a liquor store and a bank. Its faithful were tired of hearing about Y2K. "There is no Y2K," said the assembly's preacher, Jim White, 39, "only Jesus." So for five nights leading up to New Year's Day, 100 members of the congregation shook the rafters with songs, prayer and speaking in "tongues" (sounds that they believe emanate directly from the lips of God). Some members were so overcome by their encounter with God that they dropped to the floor. What excited the assembly was a rollover far greater than three calendar zeroes: the prospect of the "Rapture" arriving in the 21st century, to carry believers to heaven before the battle of Armageddon begins. Church member Tim Ball, 28, said, "I wish the Rapture was tonight." Maybe next year.

A Night To Remember | News