NEW YORK - Think of your worst memories of 2007: an ex-boyfriend, a bad medical report, stacks of unpaid bills.
Yesterday, the embarrassed and aggrieved fed the photos and documents that triggered such regrets into a giant shredder in Times Square, where a city garbage truck waited to cart them off forever.
"I feel liberated!" exclaimed Khadija Jackson after shoving a picture of her ex-fiance with his new girlfriend into the industrial-size machine.
The 23-year-old home health aide said she found the picture on his MySpace page after getting a call from the girlfriend informing her that "I'm his new woman. Leave him alone."
For those who arrived empty-handed, the folks at the Times Square Business Alliance provided stationery to write down their gripes.
Maggie Weber, 74, visiting from Ecuador, seized the opportunity to banish three unpleasant thoughts: her high cholesterol, her high blood pressure and her bills.
Her daughter, Geraldine Weber, 36, wrote down the name of her husband, from whom she hopes to be divorced by next year.
"We were walking around Times Square and saw the TV cameras," Geraldine Weber said about the public-relations stunt. "We thought it would be fun to do it."
For those who brought items that could not be shredded, a sledgehammer was provided.
Joe Costarella of Staten Island used it to demolish a tall garbage can from his kitchen with an opening too narrow to scrape his plate.
"My wife and I always argue about it," he said. "So she said if I get her a new trash can, I can wreck this one."
Alan Manevitz, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said such banishing rituals can be helpful.
"In every culture, people are able to confess and admit their regrets," he said. "And there's a point in time when you can forgive yourself and turn a new page."
Tim Tompkins, president of the business group that sponsored the event, said he got the idea from a roommate who told him about a New Year's tradition of scribbling bad memories on paper, then stuffing the paper into a doll and burning it.
"I thought having a bonfire in the middle of Times Square might not be a good idea, but we modernized it," he said. "New Year's is always about looking back, about reflection, but it's also about renewal, looking forward and letting go of things."