Related topics

Life of One Day on Earth

April 11, 1998

NOTE _ ``One should count each day a separate life,″ an ancient sage advised. The following report, compiled from dispatches filed by dozens of Associated Press correspondents worldwide, looks at the life of one day in the world. It was written by AP Special Correspondent Charles J. Hanley.


From 250 miles up, through a cosmonaut’s eye, the Earth lay serene and blue, a vast canvas against a black eternity.

Far below, many miles beneath Mir’s orbit, a broad brushstroke of gray-white, a towering front of clouds, rolled over South America. Dabs of showers dotted China. Ten thousand specks, airplanes in flight, traced lines across the globe. Still lower, at 13,000 feet, Everest climbers hunkered down against the Himalayas’ midnight chill. And down at the surface, down where 6 billion of us strive and sleep, eat and dream, the day’s first dawn broke over lonely Pacific atolls, bearing with it, after two dry months, the sweet forgotten scent of an ocean shower, of life-giving drops that wet the dying palms and the parched breadfruit.

It made Manate Tenang’s day.

``We welcome the rain,″ said Tenang, agriculture officer for the island nation of Kiribati. ``We have waited a long time.″

It was a good start to a new day, a Tuesday, April 7, 1998 _ one day in the life of the world.

The dawn’s pale light, sweeping west, caught Ou Yu-ching, 82, unsheathing her sword and stirring slowly into a dance amid Hong Kong’s steel-and-glass towers, one among millions moving to the timeless rhythms of China’s sunrise rituals, stimulating their ``qi,″ their energy.

Farther west, in India, the sun’s first rays glinted off the dark waters of the Ganges, as ascetics and children, householders and priests, heedless of the human waste that floated by, bathed in the revered river to clean their souls of sin.

``The Ganges is pure,″ worshipper Nagendra Kumar Gautam said. ``There may be dirt, but it is cleansed by its holy water.″

And onward across continents to Cairo, to a cemetery alive with visitors this Muslim holiday morning of Eid al-Adha, to a wife’s brick-and-cement tomb and a husband deep in prayer.

Sitting on a bamboo chair, warmed by the morning sun, Saeed Beyoumy recited from the Koran _ words that comforted both him, he said, and the soul of his wife.

``But I wish she was still with us,″ the old soldier said, ``sharing the joy of the Eid.″

The joy of a day.

A snapshot of a day in 1998, of its daily joys and tribulations, of its passions and diversions, of the ``news″ that doesn’t make the nightly news, can be more than a snapshot. It can be a portrait of all our days as we near the end of this century of astonishing progress and appalling bloodshed, and approach the dawn of a new millennium.

Numbers can help capture a day’s meaning: We consumed 170 million gallons of jet fuel in these 24 hours and 800 million gallons of gasoline. We caught 250,000 tons of fish and razed 100,000 acres of forest. We registered 375,000 births and 145,000 deaths. And we flocked to 8,907 movie theaters worldwide to see ``Titanic.″

In Wall Street’s sunless canyons on this Tuesday, one number reigned: New York’s fast-talking traders talked of pushing the Dow Jones stock average past 10,000 by year’s end.

But halfway across the continent, in a quiet Iowa suburb, the day’s bottom line was more a calculus of hopes and plans.

Mary and Steve Knutson, a thirtysomething couple standing in the fresh excavation for their new home, saw a dream rising where others saw just a hole. ``This is our `someday house’,″ she said. ``I guess someday finally came.″

Good times meant dreams coming true across America. But the bulldozers and pile drivers of prosperity were also hard at work elsewhere around the world this day.

In Scotland’s far north, a kilt-clad Prince Charles, attended by freezing Scots and screeching seagulls, inaugurated new construction at Peterhead’s busy harbor.

The biting wind prematurely blew the curtain off the dedication stone. ``I will now re-unveil the stone,″ the prince ad-libbed to the crowd’s delight.

Across the North Sea (east or northeast winds, force 3 or 4, rain or shower, the BBC shipping forecast warned), bright rectangles of red and orange, pink and purple blooms shivered in the breeze blowing over the flats of Holland, on the official opening day of the Dutch tulip season.

Farther north, Norway’s prosperous middle classes headed for the mountains and an Easter skiing holiday. But Oeystein Schmidt stuck close to his Oslo boat club, where on this day he was found scraping varnish off his dear old motorboat.

``To me, this is a pleasure,″ he beamed. But his wife disagreed. ``Next year,″ he said, ``I’ll have to go to the mountains.″

The ’90s boom has reached into unlikely corners, like Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where perhaps 30,000 passengers came and went this day, cellphone-equipped businessmen from the West, luggage-toting tourists from the Russian heartland.

``Where are we going?″ laughed an elderly woman. ``To London! Who would have thought it?″

Prosperity can mean many things. Ask Garibou Ouologuem.

On this day, the goat herder from the edge of the Sahara Desert was keeping watch over his livestock in an Ivory Coast market. He had ridden three days in the back of an open-air truck to bring his goats to the African coast, for sale on the Muslim feast day.

``If I work hard, and bargain well, I can make enough money for six months,″ said the weary but hopeful Ouologuem.

All across Africa, people have high hopes for the new century. But on this day they remained mired in the reality of the old.

In chaotic Nigeria, a giant oil exporter, they lined up for endless hours to buy chronically scarce gasoline. In hapless Kenya, they awoke to news that the Finance Ministry would cut civil servants’ salaries 20 percent.

Hard times, worrying times did not discriminate among continents.

In France, 1,000 hardy Parisians marched to protest unemployment, braving a wet and windy Tuesday. ``The best marches are in the rain,″ said protester Luc Martin-Chauffier. ``Adversity brings out the best in us.″

In the springtime hills of West Virginia’s coal country, the weather was perfect _ ``a beautiful day to be working,″ said Shirley Inman, driver of a strip mine’s 240-ton rock truck.

But by day’s end, this petite, graying coal miner’s daughter was worried. Rumors had spread of a mine buyout. ``We’re afraid they may lay some of us off,″ said Inman, 54. ``And I need just a little time to get my pension locked in.″

The worries ran even deeper on the other side of the world, where east Asia wallows in economic crisis.

The rescue squads of the Poh Teck Tung charity, racing through Bangkok’s streets in search of urban casualties, told an AP reporter tagging along that the number of suicides and drunk-driving accidents has climbed sharply since Thailand’s financial collapse.

Even in China, ``land of the future,″ the future looked increasingly at risk.

Those lining up this day to read job notices posted in Shenzhen, south China, were downhearted. He Xiangfen, 21, newly arrived from the interior, said she was empty-handed after a week’s looking. She’ll give it a month, she said, then go home.

But in Shenzhen and Paris, West Virginia and South Africa, those who could scrape together the yuan, francs or dollars could lose themselves for a few hours in the world of doomed love called ``Titanic.″ Scalpers in Jordan were demanding $50 a ticket. ``It’s worth every penny,″ said second-time viewer Ahmed Dameq.

For those who’d seen enough icebergs, the world’s stages offered other diversions this evening: New York opera-goers thrilled to Placido Domingo’s ``Stiffelio.″ English fans screamed at the Spice Girls in Manchester’s Nynex Arena. And in Rio de Janeiro those aging rockers, the Rolling Stones, blew into town for a date at the Sambadrome.

In their lofty orbit, the Mir space station crew had the most exclusive seats, as a popular Russian singer serenaded them with two ballad requests via a TV link.

The more Earth-bound among us this Tuesday tuned in to their favorite TV and radio talk shows. In Germany, they phoned in their outrage over proposals to boost gasoline taxes.

``How will a retiree, who also maybe has some handicapped relatives, cope with that?″ demanded one viewer.

Millions of others clicked to their ``soaps″ _ Americans watched Victor wed the critically wounded Nikki in the hospital; Poles heard Elzbieta, married mother of two, confess her love to old beau Krzysztof.

And many found their scandals in real life.

Angry New Zealanders ``talked back″ at their navy on radio, upset at the latest account of shipboard sexual assault against women sailors.

And Turks, in newspaper columns and cafes, were consumed this day in debate over folksinger Bulent Ersoy _ his sex-change operation, and her marriage to a man young enough to be his-her son.

Others preferred their sports more organized.

India-vs.-Australia cricket transformed India’s gritty city of Kanpur into a paradise of willow wood and leather balls this day. The world championships made a Canadian town called Kamloops the galactic capital of that curious sport called curling. In Rio’s slums, the barbershop talk turned on whether hotheaded soccer ``bad boy″ Edmundo would play on the national team.

And down, way down, in Antarctica, where winter is setting in, the games were hockey and bowling, and the question of the day was whether enough New Zealanders could be mustered to take on the Yanks at the evening’s McMurdo Sound tournament.

Winter set in also in torrid Dubai, in a huge tent where children in Arab robes rode toboggans down a 60-ton mound of machine-made snow. ``I’m coming back tomorrow!″ 12-year-old Mohammed Abdullah said of the festival’s ``Arctic Experience.″

But across Arabia’s desert this Tuesday, in the 100-degree heat of Mecca, the experience was real, and once-in-a-lifetime. Countless thousands of Muslims circled the sacred Kaaba, within the Grand Mosque, on a holy day of pilgrimage.

``Finally, I have visited the house of God,″ a crippled, 90-year-old man told an AP correspondent. ``Now I can die in peace.″

On the calendar this day, three great traditions met. Behind Old Jerusalem’s walls, Jewish wives cleaned, ``kosherized,″ their homes in preparation for Passover. In Rome, as priests, tourists and Holy Week pilgrims crisscrossed St. Peter’s Square, a pair of French nuns sat in the majestic piazza, in powder-blue habits, and prayed _ ``for the people we see pass by.″

They prayed, too, in the loamy green hills of central Africa this day, fourth anniversary of the onset of the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.

Rows of skulls and bones assembled for burial were a painful sight for survivors. ``But we won’t forget,″ said one woman who lost her family to the slaughter. ``That is why we are here today.″

It was a day to mourn lost generations, and to give life to a new.

In a Beijing hospital, Yang Changshui gazed proudly at the hour-old son in his arms. ``I hope he’ll have the chance to go the United States to study,″ he said.

In South Africa, newborn Nokuthula (``Peace″) lay dreamily at Busisiwe Miya’s side in a Soweto hospital bed, and visions from the new century filled the mother’s head. Too poor to go to school, Miya explained, ``I have better hopes for her. I’d like to educate her and send her to university.″

And in Bosnia, in the darkness before dawn in Sarajevo, a boy arrived to Medina and Edin Aganovic, 8 pounds, 4 ounces, 20 1/2 inches, healthy and ready to face a new millennium.

``Peace above all,″ Medina wished for her son. ``Where there is peace, there is a future.″

It was a mother’s simple prayer on an ordinary day, a great day she hoped would lead to many more.

Update hourly