1999 – The Twentieth Century ends

Technically, the Twentieth Century did not end for another year, at the end of the year 2000. But in the popular imagination, the last day of 1999 was the last day of the millennium. A day when many a religious – and one big secular – apocalypse was counted down to, to hit at the stroke of midnight. But neither the Second Coming nor the Y2K bug proved to be that big a threat.

The Twentieth Century was over with, and now, the 21st Century – the future – could begin. Only it turned out that if apocalypse wasn’t just around the corner, neither was utopia. And only 21 months into the new century, we’d all be dragged into a brand new endless Cold War when we’d just finally shaken off the last one.

Referenced in:

1999 — Prince
L.A. Money Train — Rollins Band
I Have Not Been to Oxford Town — David Bowie

1999 — Amadou Diallo is shot dead

Amadou Diallo was only 23 years old, and had only been in New York City for about two and half years at the time of his death. Stopped by police, he was shot dead in the act of reaching for his wallet, when police believed he was going for a concealed weapon (Diallo was in fact completely unarmed). Four plainclothes policemen: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss, fired a total of 41 shots at Diallo, hitting him with 19 them.

Unsurprisingly, all this overkill in the aid of precisely no useful purpose generated a considerable backlash against the NYPD, especially when the four officers were found innocent of all wrong-doing on appeal – even though one of them had shot and killed a different unarmed man two years previously. Although the unit to which the four officers belonged was disbanded as a result of the controversy, all of the men continued to work for the police force for some years after the incident.

Referenced in:
Contempt Breeds Contamination — Trivium
American Skin (41 Shots) — Bruce Springsteen
I Know You Don’t Care About Me — Ziggy Marley
Shot Into History (Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell…) — Mario Depeine Sr.

1999 – The Columbine Massacre

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, with murder on their minds. At 11:19 AM, the pair opened fire. By the time the stopped shooting, a little under a half hour later, they had killed 13 people and injured 21 others (3 more people sustained injuries fleeing the pair). At approximately 12:08 PM, the pair finished their rampage by committing suicide.

In the aftermath, the entire American nation descended into a storm of grief and anger. Rumours and blame-throwing flew thick and fast, as a desperate search for an explanation (or, if you’re more cynical, a scapegoat), chased its own tail around and around and around, while the victims of the slayings became martyrs and the killers the greatest villains since Hitler.

More than a decade later, we know little more than we did then. Although several rumours regarding the killings have been thoroughly debunked, many of these remain widely believed. Short of a combination of telepathy and time travel, we will never know.

Referenced in:

Cassie — Flyleaf
Columind — Filter
One by One — The Calling
The Kinslayer — Nightwish
A New Hope — Five Iron Frenzy
The Nobodies — Marilyn Manson
The Fight Song — Marilyn Manson
Disposable Teens — Marilyn Manson
This is Your Time — Michael W. Smith
Friend Of Mine — Jonathan and Stephen Cohen
We Don’t Want To Sing Along — Chumbawumba