My Y2K Memories
by Donald M. Parrish, Jr.
Where were you when the clock struck midnight
and suddenly it was January 1, 2000? Each of us
will remember very clearly where we were that
special midnight. I have two memories to share.
First memory: I was at work in Lucent
Technologies worldwide switching command center
before 4:00am in Chicago on December 31st. We
were monitoring reports from our teams all over
the world as the very first time zone in the
Pacific rolled over to 1/1/2000. It was exciting
to experience the year 2000. At this point, there
still was a lot of fear about the potential
impact of the Y2K bug. We could see on CNN
natives in Tonga dancing in grass skirts around a
fire. . . and, yes, the fire continued to burn
after midnight! It was clear: fire was safe from
the Y2K bug! Seriously, we watched our reports
and CNN looking for any hint of an unexpected
problem because several hundred million people
depend on Lucent's switching equipment to work
reliably all the time under all conditions.
Businesses, governments and organizations had
spent $600 billion to get ready for Y2K. We were
breathing easier after Auckland, New Zealand
transitioned from 1999 to 2000 with no problems.
Where were the massive computer and utility
shutdowns "experts" had warned about?
Instead, we were enjoying the fireworks display
in Sydney. We were relieved how smoothly things
were going, but Japan was still a question mark
in some people's minds. When Tokyo greeted 2000
with no problems, we relaxed. We watched the
worldwide celebrations, as each city seemed to
compete with the other with clever displays that
captured their culture. Where were the hackers,
the computer virus creators, and the terrorists?
Instead, we had a series of celebrations of
mankind's accomplishments as the first 8 time
zones crossed into 2000. My day's work was
finished and I went home.
Second memory: This is somewhat
embarrassing, but since I had to work again very
early the next day, I was planning to go to bed
at 8pm on December 31, 1999 and sleep through the
Y2K rollover in Chicago. Just as I was about to
go to bed, I got a call from Steve Cuppy, a
friend of mine. Steve explained that he was going
to fly a small plane into down town Chicago for
the Y2K rollover and asked me to come along.
Steve is a new private pilot and I had flown with
him once before during the day when he could see
what he was doing. A night flight with a new
pilot is something to think about. Steve outlined
the plan. We would meet at the local suburban
airport at 11:00pm, be in the air by 11:15pm, fly
into Chicago, see the fireworks and return to the
airport by 1:15am. I explained that this was
crazy since I had to get up at 2:30am to be at
work before 4:00am but, of course, I said
"yes". This would be the perfect
adventure to remember the advent of 2000.
We met at the airport as planned. The night
was cold and clear. The plane was small with just
2 seats and weighed about 1100 pounds empty. We
took off on time and flew east toward Chicago. On
the way, we circled the building I work in. I was
amazed to learn that by flying below a certain
altitude we could fly into Chicago with minimal
control from O'Hare airport. Thus we could
legally fly fairly close to the skyscrapers in
Chicago including the tallest one, Sears Tower
(1455 feet high). The lakefront is uncontrolled
airspace after 8pm even on the eve of 2000.
Airplanes just have to watch out for each other.
Once we reached downtown Chicago, we flew
north along the coast of Lake Michigan. Steve was
eager to explain the art of flying at night. As
we were flying along the Lake, he suddenly turned
the plane to head out over the water. "See,
this is what happened to John Kennedy, Jr. He
lost his bearings over water. You don't see a
horizon. It's very disorienting." "Hey,
Steve, I got your point! Why don't we fly back
over land?" Steve laughed and we resumed
flying north. With perfect precision, we reached
a famous area landmark, the Bahai Temple,
at 11:58pm and turned south to face Chicago, one
of the world's great cities. We listened on the
radio to the countdown - five, four, three, two,
one - It's 2000!! At that instant, we could see 3
simultaneous fireworks displays starting by Lake
Looking westward across the vast flat expanse
of the 150 towns, which constitute the Chicago
area, we could see dozens and dozens of fireworks
celebrations. It was an unforgettable sight.
Next, we flew downtown where 8 or 9 other planes
were flying at different altitudes and directions
near the skyscrapers using their radios to signal
their intentions. It was a bit tricky to see the
flashing lights on planes with so many fireworks
in the background, but everything worked as
planned and we returned to the airport as
scheduled at 1:20am. I went home, took a short
nap, got up and went to work on 1/1/2000.