Sunday, January 02, 2000

Unique day filled with ordinary, extraordinary moments




BY TOM O'NEILL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Dr. Frank Scudder shows Michelle Marrs her baby at 5:08 a.m. Saturday at St. Elizabeth Medical Center South.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Fast-forward 999.9 years. Put about 45 “greats” in front of the word grandchildren. They will understand why we make so much of Jan. 1, 2000.

        In Greater Cincinnati and around the planet, it is a day like no other we have ever seen. The day is 1/1/00, which still sounds strange.

        We promise ourselves we will remember — where we are, what we do, who we are with.

        A young couple at the World Peace Bell in Newport greets midnight with a kiss. Twenty-six minutes later, the first local baby is born. Five hours later, Cincinnati's first homicide investigation is launched. Later, a chicken farmer in Butler County's Morgan Township wonders aloud what technological advances the future will bring.

        The Cincinnati Enquirer captures with words and pictures the timeline of 1/1/00. And from even the seemingly mundane, pearls emerge. In Greater Cincinnati, they always do.

        Here is the story of one day like no other:

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Rick Ruehlmann kisses his bride, Wendy Ashwell Ruehlmann, at midnight.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        Midnight, Corryville: Wendy and Rick Ruehlmann greet 2000 like many other couples — by smooching in front of the TV as the New Year's ball falls in New York's Times Square.

        But the television is in Old St. George Church in Corryville, and the beaming couple are just married. They wed in a 7:30 p.m. ceremony and party with about 140 friends and relatives.

        “I thought it would be the best party of the year, and it is,” says Rick Ruehlmann, 36, a sporting goods store owner who proposed to his sweetheart of eight years last June.

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Molly Eviston of Villa Hills hugs Tom Guidugli Jr. of Newport after he proposed at midnight at the World Peace Bell celebration.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        12:01 a.m., Newport: Everyone counts down to the end of 1999 but Gordon Jackson looks very much 1899.

        He dresses in elk-skin leggings and a home-made hunting frock cut from five white-tail deer hides.

        Mr. Jackson is a 65-year-old “storyteller” who plays a mountain man at Kings Island and often visits local schools.

        “I believe in peace and love,” Mr. Jackson, of Newport, says, “and I like what's going on here tonight because it's an attempt to bring people together.”

        12:26 a.m., Anderson Township: After 31/2 hours of pushing by his mom, baby Avery Matthew becomes Greater Cincinnati's first baby delivered in 2000.

        He is 7 pounds, 81/2 ounces with thick, black hair. A sleepy Avery greets television cameras at 10 a.m.

        Nurses at Mercy Hospital Anderson's Family Birth Center, where Avery is born, coo about how cute he is and boast he was their second New Year baby in three years.

        1:40 a.m., Over-the-Rhine: A purple haze reveals dozens of black lights in the Warehouse. Liquor flows in the alternative dance club open until 4 a.m. The party is cranking up.

        Jason Speiris and Amanda Riess, professional dancers hired for the occasion, dress as unicorns. The costumes are complete with hair for their legs, body paint and a single white horn for each.

        Except that Mr. Speiris, 25, of Clifton, lost his horn.

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Eric Sims prays at the Drop Inn Center where he lives.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        2:26 a.m., Over-the-Rhine: The party ends at the Drop Inn Shelter, and the homeless stretch out wherever there is space — on benches in the main lobby, underneath the tables, or leaning against a wall.

        More than 70 people gathered to eat salad, sausage, pretzel mix, bread and bagels, chips and gram crackers.

        Eric Sims isn't thinking about any of that. The 22-year-old shelter resident, wearing a New Year's hat that proclaims 2000, says he is thinking of the family with whom he wants to reunite.

        “My family just can't quite come together,” he said of his parents, two sisters and brother. “I do my best to hope and pray that someday we'll be together again, like when I was a kid.”

        5 a.m., Over-the-Rhine: Cincinnati Fire Division responds to a call about an unresponsive person lying in an Over-the-Rhine apartment courtyard near Findlay and Vine streets. He'd been shot dead.

        Homicide unit Sgt. John Newsom gets the firefighters' call at 5:17 a.m., just as his head hits the pillow after spending the night on a standby SWAT team.

        By 8:45 a.m., Sgt. Newsom is answering questions about the dead man, the city's first reported homicide of the new year: The victim was a black man with no identification on him.

        “We're kind of at the very infancy of this investigation at this point,” he said.

        It's the fourth consecutive year for a homicide on New Year's Day, he said.

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Glitter pals Jason Speiris of Clifton and Amanda Riess of Hyde Park dance as a unicorn couple at Warehouse nightclub.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        7:30 a.m., Hebron: Three excited children run through Delta Air Lines gate B22 as their dad, Bill Poggensee, tries to keep up.

        The family flew for the past two days to keep flight attendant and mom, Tia, company. “They came with me so I wouldn't have to spend New Year's Eve alone,” she says.

        The family had a seafood dinner in Richmond, Va., before going to sleep at 8:30 p.m. to be ready to wake up at 4 a.m. “We pretended it was New Year,” Ms. Poggensee says.

        8 a.m., Fairfield: By this hour many mornings, the Donut Spot, 4612 Pleasant Ave., Fairfield, has customers lined up all the way out the door.

        Today, there's a steady stream of customers grabbing donuts, coffee, hot chocolate and orange juice. But the customers aren't lined up.

        “Every New Year's Day, they come in late. They're all sleeping in after a late night,” says Bob Pennington of Oxford.

        9 a.m., Morgan Township, Butler County: Jim Hoernig, his mother and his two children live the simple life on a 6-acre family chicken farm in Butler County's Morgan Township. But he still appreciates — at arm's length — the achievements of 20th century technology and wonders what advancements the future will bring.

        “I just think it's fascinating,” he says. “All of the new technology and things that have come out since I was a little kid. It's kind of neat to reflect back on that.”

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Laura Drennan of West Chester plays a jester in a rehearsal for the Boar's Head festival.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        2:30 p.m., Downtown: Hundreds gather at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati for the annual Boar's Head festival.

        While the rest of the world celebrates the arrival of the Year 2000, participants in this festival look back to the 14th century. They don medieval costumes and perform a 600-year-old pageant that symbolizes the Christ Child's triumph over sin.

        “The idea is to take you back in time,” says Laura Drennan, a 21-year veteran of the annual festival.

        Here, the Year 2000 is an afterthought.

        4 p.m., Winton Woods: Bundled up in no more than windbreakers or fleece jackets, Tristaters fill the Hamilton County park, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather.

        Children feed ducks around Winton Woods' lake. Fishermen watch their lines for a bite. On the opposite side of the lake, one couple throws large rocks to break up a patch of ice. A couple cuddles on a park bench.

        4 p.m., Covington: Football fills the television screens at Tickets sports bar. The place isn't exactly filled, though — fans waited till later to pack in for their favorite games at the familiar spot for sports-watching.

        “Early in the day on the day after New Year's Eve, a lot of people are home playing couch potato,” jokes owner Dave Ammon. “For some reason, they feel they need a little extra rest today.”

        Lucy May, Tanya Albert, Janice Morse, Jane Prendergast, Dan Klepal, Dan Horn, and Dana DiFilippo contributed to this report.

Saturday story: Tristate rings in '2000'



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