Nine days into this year, the U.S. learned of a mysterious virus related to SARS in Wuhan, China. According to CBS News, 15 people were diagnosed with the illness on Jan. 9. Doctors said it spread through “coughing or sneezing or by touching an infected person.” And little did anyone know, the unknown virus later defined as “COVID-19,” will forever be tied to the year of 2020. As we move into 2021, here’s a look back at the stories that dominated the headlines this year.
20. The Royals call it quits
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, decided to exit the royal family early in 2020. An official statement by Buckingham Palace said, “Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.” The couple is now looking to have serious talks with the senior members of the royal family to extend their royal exit deal with Buckingham Palace, which is set to expire on March 31, 2021.
19. Qassem Soleimani’s assassination
One of Iran’s most powerful men, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a US airstrike ordered by President Trump at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3. The head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force oversaw operations overseas for the country that was deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the early 1980’s. Soleimani was revered in Iran as a brave leader and was beloved by the Iranian troops, but was viewed as a ruthless killer by American leadership. Soleimani was said to be an “indispensable figure in Iran, playing an instrumental role in spreading its influence in the Middle East.”
18. Sports return with the NBA Bubble
The NBA season ended abruptly and in some cases mid-game due the players testing positive for COVID-19. Some thought the season would be lost for good without the playoffs leading up to the NBA Finals. But it was Michael Jordan who brought the sports world back into focus after months of being shut down. It was his vision and resources that constructed the highly-successful NBA Disney World Bubble. The greatest basketball player of all-time proved his concept could finish out the season without a single case of Coronavirus, along with keeping the world tuned in when it was needed the most.
“Being the only the former NBA player to be the majority owner of an NBA team, and also arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. And, so he can have very serious and deep conversations with our players and understand exactly what their thoughts and concerns are,” Charlotte Hornets vice chairman and president Fred Whitfield said about Jordan. “He can go share those thoughts and concerns with his other 29 partners, the other owners of NBA teams, and help them understand exactly the mentality of our players and what’s important to them, and vice versa.”
17. Amy Coney Barrett
Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice during a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 27. The 47-year-old conservative appeals court judge was confirmed to the lifetime appointment about a week before Election Day. Democrats argued Barrett’s nomination should’ve been treated the same way that Merrick Garland’s was in 2016, and the “will of the people” through the election should decide the seat left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Senate voted to confirm Barrett by a 52-48 margin. She joined Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as Trump’s third nomination to the Supreme Court.
The United Kingdom announced they would break away from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community on January 31, 2020. After months of negotiations and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the separation agreement is coming closer to being finalized. The deadline for reaching a resolution is set to expire on Dec. 31. One of the biggest terms of Brexit is the UK will no longer abide by the terms of the World Trade Organization.
15. Climate Change
Another year with some of the worst natural disasters on record due to evidence of climate change around the world. The year of 2020 featured the most named storms during Atlantic Hurricane season with 30. A round of devastating wildfires ripped through several states in the western part of the U.S., along with a majority of Australia in January. Experts say 2021 is a crucial year to reverse long-term damages from global warming. “This year remains on track to be one of the three warmest on record, and may even rival 2016 as the warmest on record. The six warmest years have all been since 2015,” according to WMO.
14. The Biden-Harris nomination
History was made in 2020 with former vice president Joe Biden and his running mate senator Kamala Harris being elected as the next president and vice president of the United States of America. Biden, 78, will be the older president in U.S. history when he takes office in January. The former longtime Senator made history beside Kamala Harris, who’s will be the first woman and the Black American to be second-in-line to the presidency. With that being said, Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff, will also make history as the nation’s first second gentleman. Jill Biden will be the first woman to hold a PhD and assume the role as first lady as well.
13. The Impeachment and acquittal of President Donald J. Trump
President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives and charged with criminal abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He was only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. On February 5, the Senate acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles. Neither article received a two-thirds majority with fifty-two Republican senators voting against the charge of abuse of power; and all fifty-three voting against the charge of obstruction of Congress. Mitt Romney (R-UT) was the only senator to break ranks and join the Democrats to vote for the abuse of power charge.
12. Stay-at-home/ American’s banned worldwide
The spread of COVID-19 forced countries across the world to shut down and millions of Americans were stranded at home. Some under a strict stay-at-home order by state and local governments while others were restricted from traveling abroad. For the first time in many people’s lives, Americas were banned from entering Europe, along with the neighboring countries of Mexico, and Canada. The handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. pushed those on the outside to put up invisible walls to protect against people who’ve not adhered to guidelines to stop the spread of the virus. In fact, a United States passport is currently accepted in only about 20 places in the world.
The year of 2020 will go down as one of the worst for North America wildfires. A state that was ravaged in particular was California. According to statistics by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, there were “52,113 wildfires that had burned 8,889,297 acres in the U.S. this past year. This is approximately 2.3 million more acres burned than the 10-year average and almost double the acreage burned in the 2019 season.”
This doesn’t take into account the fires in Australia that caused $103 billion worth of damage. The ten costliest weather disasters worldwide this year saw insured damages at $150 billion with a majority claimed by wildfires worldwide. A record season for the ‘land down under’ that took the lives of 34 people and destroyed more than 3,500 homes in the Australian Capital Territory.
10. The killing of Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, when three officers forcefully entered as part of an investigation into drug dealing operations. The former EMT was killed as she slept by Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove, who didn’t announce their presence going into Taylor’s house. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a warning shot thinking there was an intruder when officers returned fire with 32 shots. Six of those hitting Taylor after Mattingly was shot in the leg by Walker’s single shot.
On September 15, the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million and promised to reform police practices.
Mattingly filed the lawsuit against Walker for emotional distress, assault and battery stemming from the night she was killed. The lawsuit claims Louisville Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly experienced “severe trauma, mental anguish, and emotional distress” because of Kenneth Walker’s actions.
Walker filed a counter lawsuit against Mattingly and LMPD saying he would “No longer remain silent.” The suit filed by Walker’s attorney Steve Romine seeks unspecified monetary damages from the city and Louisville Metro Police Department for assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and negligence. “Kenny continues to reel from the death of the love of his life, but he is also the victim and survivor of police misconduct — misconduct that threatens his freedom to this day,” the complaint says.
“We know police are firing wildly from various angles,” Romines said at a press conference on Sept. 1. “The timeline and evidence at the scene is more indicative of (police) actually shooting Mattingly than it is Kenny Walker.”
The case was investigated by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the FBI for possible action against the officers, but a grand jury decided on Sept. 23 not to bring charges against the officers in Taylor’s killing.
9. COVID-19 Vaccine
The U.K. was the first country to give emergency use authorization to Pfizer’s Coronavirus vaccine in November. It was a promising sign for the Western World and led the United States to follow suit with mass inoculations for citizens. Millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were rolled out to states after FDA approval on Dec. 12.
About a week later, Moderna’s ‘mRNA-1273’ vaccine was authorized for use in individuals over the age of 18. Both variations of the vaccine were extremely close for potency when tested in a head-to-head comparison. The Pfizer emergency use authorization is for people 16 and older. There’s currently no viable vaccine for children at the moment. Moderna is testing the effectiveness of their vaccination on people under the age of 17, but doesn’t have a timetable on when early results will be reported.
8. The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer for civil rights and the second woman named to the nation’s highest court, died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87. Her prowess was often noted over the past several decades, leading Ginsburg to become a cultural icon. She was sworn in as the 107th judge to reach the court and followed in the footsteps of trailblazer Sandra Day O’ Connor.
According to the New York Times, Ginsburg’s Senate confirmation “seven weeks later, by a vote of 96 to 3, ended a drought in Democratic appointments to the Supreme Court that extended back to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s nomination of Thurgood Marshall 26 years earlier.”
Since that time, Ginsburg has given her opinion on several landmark cases including United States v. Virginia (1996), Bush v. Gore (2000), Shelby County v. Holder (2013), Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) and Sessions v. Dimaya (2018).
As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”
Ginsburg will be remembered as one of the most outspoken voices in the court’s history. To the end of her tenure, she remained a one-of-a-kind fighter for equal rights.
7. Black Lives Matter movement
The Black Lives Matter movement became recognized as an international phenomenon this past year. As protesters took to the streets in the U.S. after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minn., the world came together to do the same. We witnessed the images of a white Minneapolis policeman drive his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he cried for help before passing away. The act sparked a deep outrage in the world and the BLM movement became a message. One that traveled across the globe to strengthen a push for equal rights in the corporate world as well.
A rallying cry (of sorts) changed America amidst the COVID-19 pandemic with people struggling to come to terms with the chaotic events in the world. The founders of the movement sought to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.”
According to NBC News, “At least sixty-two Fortune 500 companies posted about Black Lives Matter on Facebook in the wake of the summer’s protests. And BLM Facebook posts by popular brands like Nordstrom, Ben & Jerry’s and others saw more engagement than usual posts.” The report went on to say that before the summer’s protests, just two Fortune 500 companies had posted about the movement. About 67% of Americans in June strongly backed BLM’s efforts, according to Pew research.
Black Lives Matter also received support from congressional leaders, who saw the fight for change. The late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) told protesters before his death, “You must be able and prepared to give until you cannot give any more.” The renowned activist Angela Davis praised the movement: “‘Structural racism,’ ‘white supremacy,’ all of these terms that have been used for decades in the ranks of our movements have now become a part of popular discourse.”
6. 2020: Remembering those we lost
The realest part of 2020 was dealing with death. Not only losing the nearly 350,000 Americans to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some other notable figures who are gone too soon. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in the city of Calabasas, Calif. on Jan. 26. At the age of 41, the basketball legend left behind a well-documented legacy that includes being a five-time NBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Academy Award winning writer & executive producer. Bryant’s death sparked the term #GirlDad for the love he showed for his daughters.
The world also mourned the sudden loss of actor Chadwick Boseman. Best known for his role as King T’Challa in Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther,” the 43-year-old lost a four-year battle with cancer on Aug. 28. A fight Boseman took on privately while working to complete several major motion pictures.
John Lewis, the longtime US congressman, died after a six-month battle with cancer on July 18. The civil right leader survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala., and went on to serve Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death.
“I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis said after he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
Alex Trebek fought similar circumstances before his death on Nov. 9. The top-notch “Jeopardy!” host was the personality of the longest-running trivia game show for five decades. “Over 37 seasons, Trebek hosted more than 8,200 episodes of “Jeopardy!,” the most by a presenter of any single TV game show,” according to a statement from Sony Pictures. He passed Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” in the Guinness Book of Records as the person who had hosted the most game show episodes. Like Lewis, he also died of complications with stage IV pancreatic cancer and was 80 years old.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actor Kirk Douglas, scientist Katherine Johnson, businessman Herman Cain, and entertainers Little Richard and Regis Philbin, are some of the other notable people lost in 2020.
5. The Unemployment crisis
An emergency crisis that a majority of people faced in 2020 was unemployment in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. The 30 million people who lost their jobs in March and April would’ve plummeted into poverty without jobless benefits. A wave of tens of millions more people applied for unemployment with some not receiving income for months. According to financial reports, “consumer spending dropped by an astonishing 38 percent in a matter of days” in April due to a lack of economic confidence.
Congress was forced to pass the CARES Act that provided emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. A $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27 gave a one-time stimulus payment of $600 per person and $500 per dependent child to anyone who made less than $75,000 in 2019. It also gave supplemental unemployment benefits of $600/week that expired at the end of July with little to no extended relief for Americans. The GOP proposed an extension but would cut the amount from $600 to $200. The downward spiral continued into the summer and past the presidential election in November.
A second round of stimulus relief that totaled $900 billion was passed by Congress earlier this month.
4. The Death of George Floyd
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds: A amount of time forever linked to 2020 and will be remembered due to the police killing of George Floyd on May 25. The 46-year-old African-American man from Minneapolis, Minn. died after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. A moment that was later put on display for the entire world to see in a shocking viral video. Protests against police brutality hit the street in a fever pitch after Floyd’s death and quickly spread on an international scale with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Floyd was arrested after allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. He was handcuffed with his head down on the street by Chauvin while two other police officers prevented onlookers from intervening with the process of Floyd’s death.
The official autopsy report classified the killing as a homicide attributed to cardiopulmonary arrest caused by subdual and restraint. Fentanyl intoxication and methamphetamine use were listed as “significant conditions.” A second autopsy, ordered by Floyd’s family, said he died due to “asphyxia caused by a restriction of blood flow to the brain, and back compression restricting breathing.”
Floyd’s death was featured in ‘The Economist’, who called it “the rich promise of social reform.” Several colleges and universities have created scholarships in Floyd’s name. And George Perry Floyd Jr. Place now sits on Chicago Avenue between 37th and 39th Streets in Minneapolis. The same crossroads where a memorial emerged the day after his death.
3. The Death of Kobe Bryant
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan. 26. He was 41.
The news of his untimely passing sent shockwaves across the world to those who knew him personally and others who adored his craft. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the nine passengers travelling in the private helicopter when it came down and burst into flames on the hillside of the LA suburb.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, played his entire career with the LA Lakers and is considered one of the greatest players in history.
A series of memories about Bryant was carried on in a piece by J’Mar Smith for ‘Kobe Bryant Day‘ on Aug. 24.
“While Kobe loved basketball he loved his family more. Bryant also found that love through charity work. Kobe and his wife, Vanessa, launched a self-titled Foundation in 2007 to sponsor international experiences for minority college students as well as provide scholarships for the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy. His basketball academy proves to be yet another example of Bryant giving back to the youth and changing the lives of those around him. He also continued his work through the foundation formerly known as the Mamba Sports Foundation, the Mamba and Mambacita Sports foundation.
Bryant inspired millions to work hard and believe that if you want something bad enough, you will get it. An 18-time all-star, five-time NBA champion and soon-to-be hall of Famer. While he was known as “Mamba” on the court, off it he was simply Kobe. A father, a husband, a coach, a mentor and friend to many who knew him. When something major or catastrophic happens, we’re drawn back to remembering the details. Many of us will always have Sept. 11, 2001 as an unfortunate date in our memory banks. Sports fans and millions around the world will have another date etched in their minds —January 26, 2020. A day from an unforgiving year marking the loss of Kobe, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash. Bryant wasn’t afraid to die. He was afraid of not taking every moment like it was his last. It was the same way Kobe approached the game of basketball.
As unfair as the outcome may seem, he lived to play the game. “Dear Basketball,” Bryant wrote in an Nov. 29, 2015 piece for The Players Tribune.
“From the moment I started rolling my dad’s tube socks and shooting imaginary Game-winning shots in the Great Western Forum I knew one thing was real: I fell in love with you. A love so deep I gave you my all —From my mind & body to my spirit & soul. As a six-year-old boy deeply in love with you I never saw the end of the tunnel. I only saw myself running out of one. And so I ran. I ran up and down every court after every loose ball for you. You asked for my hustle. I gave you my heart because it came with so much more. I played through the sweat and hurt not because the challenge called me but because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU Because that’s what you do when someone makes you feel as alive as you’ve made me feel. You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream and I’ll always love you for it. But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding my mind can handle the grind but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
And that’s OK. I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now so we both can savor every moment we have left together. The good and the bad. We have given each other all that we have. And we both know, no matter what I do next I’ll always be that kid With the rolled up socks garbage can in the corner :05 seconds on the clock ball in my hands. 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Love you always, Kobe”
2. The 2020 Presidential Election
One of the most talked about subjects over the past year was the 2020 general election cycle. Yes, it felt like years to most of us in retrospect. This was the 59th quadrennial presidential election and was a moment likely to go down in history as the most divided between the GOP and democrats.
It was the highest voter turnout since the 1900 election with both sides receiving at least 74 million votes. Former vice president Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris defeated the Republican incumbent ticket of president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence by over 7 million votes. The 306-232 Electoral College win for Biden-Harris was the same margin the Trump-Pence campaign won with in 2016.
A record number of ballots were cast early via mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to AP News, “As a result of the large number of mail-in ballots, some swing states saw delays in vote counting and reporting; this led to major news outlets delaying their projection of Biden and Harris as the winners until the morning of November 7.” The GOP and Trump have claimed widespread voter fraud since Election night on Nov. 3. U.S. Attorney General William Barr disputed that falsehood by saying the Justice Department has not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud that would overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump has attempted to dispute the results in court, but his meritless claims have been thrown out more than fifty times in several states.
The election results in each state and Washington D.C. were certified on December 14, and those electoral votes will be officially counted by Congress on January 6, 2021. Biden and Harris are set to be inaugurated two weeks later on January 20.
1. The Coronavirus Pandemic
SARS-CoV-2, better known as COVID-19 or the Coronavirus, is undoubtedly the world’s top story of 2020. Everybody will look back on the past year and have their own story of the pandemic to share. Whether it involves the death of a loved one or trying to overcome the struggles from COVID’s aftermath, nobody’s story or pain will be the same. As we close out one of the most turbulent years in recent memory, we’re reminded of how we got here.
Over 83 million people have tested positive for Coronavirus worldwide and the death toll has reached more than 1.81 million. Out of that figure, almost 20 million cases and over 343,000 deaths have occurred in the U.S., the most of any country in the world.