Hundreds of thousands of revelers in chilly weather in Times Square cheered when an 11,875-pound crystal ball covered with more than 32,000 bulbs dropped at midnight, ushering in the new decade and ending 10 years marred by war, recession, terrorism and threats of environmental catastrophe.
"Much happiness and for the world, much peace,'' said Joao Lacerda of Brazil, 58, one of many who came from around the world to celebrate in midtown Manhattan.
Many people wore conical party hats and 2010 glasses that blinked colorfully, and some were jumping up and down to keep warm as a cold rain fell Thursday night.
Cell phones were brought out to document the last few hours of a decade many wanted to leave behind.
Reflecting on the past decade when she had buried her mother, Guay had this advice: "Don't look back.''
But a sense of starting fresh remains elusive for many, who wonder what sort of legacy begins on Jan. 1, 2010.
David Fraley, 56, of Las Vegas, attended a party in Sin City's downtown where 35,000 were expected.
"This decade's over. Let's get a better one going,'' said Fraley, who said he lost his job as a supermarket liquor clerk in March.
"The meaning of the new decade is going to be diminished by the hangover of the last decade,'' says Bob Batchelor, professor of mass communications at Kent State University and author of "The 2000s,'' published before the decade was even done. "That makes it tough to be as optimistic as Americans usually are.''
But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was more tempered in his assessment.
"If you put it in the context of what people are suffering around the world, we're in very good shape,'' he said from Times Square.
Ramona Vlada of Romania, 28, echoed that sentiment. "I have many wishes for 2010!'' she said. "I wish to be healthy, love and to be loved at the same time.''
The partygoers in New York City brought out heightened police security, displayed a day earlier when police evacuated several blocks around Times Square to investigate a parked van without license plates. Only clothing and clothes racks were found inside.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, speaking from Times Square on a Webcast, said the department had "many, many'' police officers in the crowd, both uniformed and plainclothes.
"This is something we do every year,'' he said. "We change it somewhat so it's not that predictable.''