THE ’00s decade is history and like most journalists, I’m sitting at my desk trying to make some sense out of them. It’s an occupational hazard; we think life’s events should be wrapped up in a tidy headline. But the more I try, the more I realize life, or news, don’t lend themselves to neat summaries, unless of course you count those Christmas letters you receive from long lost friends.
So for now, I don’t have a title for this decade. Instead, I can only write about the 2000 years as filtered through political news and my own prism of experience. Here goes:
In November 2000, we tried something new. We brought local commentators into the newsroom to write about the presidential election as it was unfolding. When there was no winner it made for some creative hedging. One time campaign strategist Ted Snyder of Whittier wrote: “In a presidential election this close, a mandate is an illusion.”
Another memory from Nov. 8, 2000 was jumping out of my car, putting a quarter in the news rack next to the Albertson’s and picking up our newspaper with the headline: “A nation divided.” It was a huh? moment. The next day’s headline was equally on the money: “Countdown to history,” as was the following day’s banner hed which was simply, “To be continued …”
It was some way to start a decade.
In September 2001 we went from indecision to incredulity. Waking up, I turned on the news and in the next minute, saw the second plane plow into the World Trade Center. New York City, my hometown, was under attack.
Here in the SGV, the bright sunshine falsely declared nothing was wrong. My wife and I sent our elementary school students to their first day of school that year. At night, I attended a Bible Study in Arcadia and my son, Andy, who was 9, handed me a pencil-and-crayon drawing he made in school that assured me things would be OK. Something of blue skies and an eagle. Earlier that day, a few of us in the newsroom gathered on the sidewalk for a group hug and more prayers. We wrote an editorial and slapped on the headline, “Why did it happen here?” and included a drawing of the Statue of Liberty crying.
2002 and 2004 summers were fun, for those were years my son, Andy, won Little League championships. In ’02, I remember sitting in the stands in Long Beach at a state 9-and-10-year-old state tournament, reading about the Anaheim Angels and their lock on first place. The Angels won the World Series that year for the very first time and haven’t won one since. In ’04, the Temple City National Little League won district — the first time our little city took that trophy since 1980. No Temple City majors team have won the trophy since then.
On Oct. 7, 2003, the state voters got real worked up and recalled Gov. Gray Davis and put Arnold Schwarzenegger in his place. But new people don’t make as much difference as new systems. Here’s hoping the system of governing California changes in 2010 with a new constitutional convention and the beginnings of redistricting reform.
Also in 2003, the state suffered some of the worst wildfires in history. A picture on our front page showed Arnold hugging a fire victim. He would do that a great many more times this decade.
In 2004, George W. Bush — as our newspapers aptly put it — finally got his mandate. I remember interviewing voters who made me proud to be an American.
“I was nervous but I feel I am doing the right thing,” was how 42-year-old first-time voter Nancy Holmes of West Covina described her emotions. “Now I can speak my mind,” she told me.
Elections come and go and they affect us differently. I remember the phone calls on my cell when the media declared Barack Obama the winner in 2008. I remember all the winners and losers from school boards and city council races — too numerous to mention in this small space. They, too, made up a political decade that was filled with chills and spills.