What a difference a decade makes

Published 4:52 pm Saturday, December 26, 2009

It seemed like just yesterday many of us were sitting around wondering what the new millennium would bring. There were potential terrorist threats and global anomalies people used to predict a dangerous transition into the next decade, the next millennium.

Working as a reporter in Selma, Ala., at the time, I recall writing dozens upon dozens of stories about the approaching Y2K. There was talk of computer malfunctions, financial collapse and the like.

We described companies spending millions of dollars ensuring their computer networks were safe, along with utility companies checking and double-checking their services were protected from a major computer shutdown.

Those of us in the media did little to calm the fears. Newspaper publishers developed backup plans upon backup plans of their own to ensure their newspapers could be printed on Jan. 1, 2000.

I joined others in writing the “what if” stories, detailing what would happen if computers were not upgraded and computer code rewritten.

It was amazing that even as smart as we thought ourselves to be, we could be so terrorized by a seemingly insignificant bit of computer code. It seemed we were brought to our knees by the fact that computers had not been developed to accept four digits for the year.

Did we really believe our computers would revert back to 01-01-1900? In short, yes.

But what a difference a decade makes.

Who would have thought 10 years later that the Y2K threat — and the ensuring Y2K letdown after nothing happened on 01-01-2000 — would likely not even make the top 10 or 20 stories of the past decade?

Who would have thought 10 years ago that our country would have seen such tragedy and such triumph that the top story of the day on Jan. 1, 2000 would be little more than a mention in a recap of top events of the past 10 years?

Much like our country, Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads have seen tremendous change — some good, some bad — during the past 10 years. We have seen tremendous growth and the prosperity that comes with it, but we also have seen the pain associated with dramatic change and growth.

We have seen great celebrations and great tragedy — both on a personal level and as a community. It is that ebb and flow of life that makes predicting — or even reviewing — events such a perilous task.

In the past 10 years I have had the chance to celebrate wonderful successes in my personal and professional life; marrying the former Nikki Marie James tops the list.

I also have mourned the loss of loved ones and friends.

The next 10 years will challenge each of us individually and as a community. There is the recession to overcome and the worldwide threat of terror we never understood just a decade ago.

Today all of us are asked to be quicker and smarter than we were a decade ago to meet the demands of a much faster world. And we must challenge ourselves to slow down every now and then to appreciate those around us.

There is no telling what will become of our lives in the next 10 years, but there is one thing to be certain, it should make for one heck of a story.