In Maryland, dawn of 2000 brings day like many others

January 02, 2000|By Larry Bingham | Larry Bingham,SUN STAFF

The year 2000 dawned in Maryland with fog and frost and the comfortable reality that no matter how much things were supposed to change, things stayed the same.

With Y2K worries behind them, people took yesterday for what it was: the gift of another day.

An old woman celebrated a birthday. A tourist returned home. A golfer made good on a resolution. Planes departed, babies were born and a poet came down with the flu.

A quiet celebration

Annie Wynn was taken to St. Agnes Hospital the day after Christmas, complaining of shortness of breath. All the years she cleaned houses for people, from 1926 to 1973, her health had been good. But not now.

She had come to St. Agnes in October with congestive heart failure, but this time around, she had pneumonia. The doctors gave her antibiotics, something to take fluid from her lungs; they even counted calories to make sure she had enough to eat.

It was a nurse who noticed Wynn's birthday on her chart. Born Jan. 1. When the nurse clocked out, and the late shift came on, they agreed: We ought to do something.

Wynn's family had planned a party, but they'd seen her mental state lapse in the past two years. She recognized them, and she could answer simple questions, but "Mama" wasn't the same.

They worried a gathering would be too much.

Wynn was asleep at 10 after midnight, when the first nurse opened the door. Four others followed, singing "Happy Birthday" and carrying a cake. The old woman opened her eyes, after some prodding.

She wasn't able to help the nurses blow out her candles, but she said, "yes," she knew it was her birthday, and "yes," she knew it was the year 2000. Then she closed her eyes again.

When the sun came up, Annie Wynn fed herself breakfast. She had turned 108.

Gaining perspective

Art Patchefsky lived in Baltimore about 35 years ago. Now he calls Philadelphia home. But when the calendar turned, he came back -- so that his wife and two children, 9-year-old Jamie and 7-year-old Michal, could see the National Aquarium in Baltimore. And so that Jan. 1, 2000, would be a memorable day.

"It puts your own mortality in perspective, because you know you're not going to be around for 2100," he said. His wife, Lynn McHenry, agreed.

The visit made him think of the past, as well as the future.

The city he left is not the same. Stores he remembers are gone. As his family walked around the Inner Harbor in the morning, passing tourists, residents and dark shops, he recalled how industrial it once was.

The changes are bittersweet because he sees them through nostalgic eyes. But in this different downtown he also saw something worth keeping. "It's clean, it's modern, it seems very safe," he said.

Driving ambitions

On Route 29 in Howard County, at Rocky Gorge driving range, the sun burned off the fog and left beautiful blue skies by late morning.

Rocky Gorge has been open for 34 years, every day except Christmas. "Most people start coming out just before the start of the professional golf season in January. They have new clubs and a new set of goals," said golf instructor Steve Novotny. "This place will be packed by 2."

Clarksville resident Danny Kim and his son, Kenny, came out early. "I'm out here with my buddy. New day, new year," said Kim as he handed his 9-year-old son clubs almost as tall as he.

"My resolution is to make that handicap under 18 -- just a little bit," he said, holding his fingers about an inch apart.

Just another day

Around the city, life went on.

The first reported fire was a one-alarm caused by a clothes dryer on Ridgecroft Road in Gardenville, called in at 12: 19 a.m. The first ship into the Port of Baltimore was the Americana, a Bahamian-flagged freighter that chugged in at 11: 30 a.m. with containers from South America. The first plane out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport: a 5: 30 a.m. Delta flight to Atlanta.

First baby: Angel Diamond Foster, a 5-pound, 14-ounce girl born to 20-year-old Teresa Begett at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Baltimore Police Department's first arrests were of young men shooting celebratory rounds into the air. Four men were arrested in separate incidents at midnight, and another two were arrested at 12: 01 a.m.

The first inadvertent plunge into the Inner Harbor happened within a minute after the clock struck 12. Pamela Hunt, a 45-year-old Bell Atlantic executive, tumbled into the inky water of the East Marina as she rushed to congratulate a fellow partygoer for making it through another year.

"We're all celebrating, and the next thing you know, she slips off the pier into the water," said Hunt's husband, Brian. She was pulled back to land unhurt.

At 12: 06 a.m., the Baltimore Fire Department got a call saying that an intoxicated, unidentified 65-year-old man had stumbled into the drink. He was later taken to the hospital with hypothermia.

Resting up for future

One of Maryland's renowned poets spent yesterday contemplating the flu's effects on the literary community.

In a raspy, shaky voice, Linda Pastan, the state's former poet laureate and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, said her plans did not include composing an ode to the year ending in three zeros.

"You'll start to see millennium poems in the poetry magazines over the next several months -- but not from me," said Pastan, a Potomac resident who served as poet laureate from 1991 to 1995. "Maybe something will strike me, but I'm not a big end-of-the-century fan."

Instead, Pastan urged Marylanders to read Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" and William Butler Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium," in which he writes "of what is past, or passing, or to come."

Now if you'll excuse her, Pastan needs her rest. Because tomorrow brings another day.

Sun staff writers Jamie Smith Hopkins, Mark Ribbing and Candus Thomson contributed to this article.

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