- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, the List looks at the top 20 events of the year that made many of us sit up and take notice.

  • 20. England riots (Aug. 6) — Following the shooting death by police of a known drug dealer in Tottenham, London, rioting, looting and arson broke out in the British capital and spread to a number of other cities. On Aug. 10, British Prime Minister David Cameron authorized the use of water cannons for the first time outside Northern Ireland to deal with the worst riots in a generation. More than 3,100 arrests were made. London will host the 2012 Olympics.
  • 19. 9/11 Memorial (Sept. 11) — On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the family members of the approximately 3,000 victims finally were able to see the official memorial in New York City — two reflecting pools set in the footprints of the original World Trade Center twin towers.
  • 18. Anwar al-Awlaki killed (Sept. 30) — The American-born senior leader of the Islamist militant group al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed while driving in northern Yemen by missiles shot from a Predator drone. Al-Awlaki, 40, had been in contact with Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooting suspect, and the 2009 Christmas Day “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
  • 17. Syrian uprising (March 15) — A full-scale national uprising began in Syria after a mass protest erupted in the city of Daraa. Since then, the country appears to be sliding into civil war with estimates of 5,000 dead since the protest began.
  • 16. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner quits in scandal (June 16) — Outspoken Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, an up-and-coming figure in the Democratic Party, resigned from Congress amid outrage over sexually explicit emails and social-media postings. Mr. Weiner’s seat in Congress was won by a Republican for the fist time since 1923.
  • 15. Debt-ceiling battle (Aug. 2) — Partisan divisions in Congress led to a fight over the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. President Obama finally signed it into law Aug. 2 after the House passed the compromise measure by a 269-161 vote. The battle prompted Standard & Poor’s to strip the U.S. of its AAA credit rating Aug. 5.
  • 14. Earthquake hits the Washington area (Aug. 23) — The most powerful earthquake to strike the East Coast in 67 years shook buildings from South Carolina to Maine. The magnitude-5.8 tremor caused extensive damage to the 127-year-old Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.
  • 13. Hurricane Irene (Aug. 27) — Hurricane Irene, a large and powerful storm, made landfall Aug. 27, leaving extensive damage on the East Coast, especially in Vermont. A state of emergency was called by governors in New Jersey, New York and other states, and New York City’s subway was closed for the first time in the system’s history.
  • 12. Joe Paterno fired by Penn State amid sex-abuse scandal (Nov. 9) — One of America’s most storied college football programs was tarnished in a scandal that led to the firing of famed football coach Joe Paterno. One of his former assistants, Jerry Sandusky, stands accused of sexually molesting 10 boys.
  • 11. Steve Jobs dies (Oct. 5) — Apple CEO and company founder Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. Jobs invented gadgets, from the personal computer to the iPod and iPhone, that transformed American industry and everyday technology.
  • 10. Occupy Wall Street (Sept. 17) — A protest at a New York City park near Wall Street, airing complaints that the richest 1 percent of Americans benefit at the expense of the rest, spread to scores of communities across the U.S. and abroad.
  • 9. Joplin tornado (22 May) — A tornado wiped out the town of Joplin, killing 116 and damaging or destroying about 8,000 homes and businesses. A month earlier, in late April, 321 died in tornadoes that hit the in the Southeast and Midwest.
  • 8. Norway massacre (July 22) — Anders Behring Breivik, a self-styled anti-Muslim militant, killed 77 people in the country’s worst peacetime massacre. Breivik killed eight people in a bomb attack in Oslo’s government district and then went on to kill another 69 at a political youth camp on the island of Utoya.
  • 7. Royal Wedding (April 29 ) — An estimated 2 billion people worldwide tuned in to watch the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
  • 6. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shot (Jan. 8) — Third-term congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona suffered severe head injuries when she and 18 other people at a political event were shot by a gunman outside a Tucson supermarket. Six people died.
  • 5. Moammar Gadhafi killed (Oct. 20) — After more than 40 years of mercurial and often brutal rule, Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by his own people. American and NATO airstrikes began on Libya on March 19 and Gadhafi was tracked down and killed on Oct. 20 in the fishing village where he was born.
  • 4. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak forced from power (Feb. 11) — The Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia, reached a milestone when Hosni Mubarak, who was the president of Egypt for 30 years, was forced from power. Islamist parties gained almost 70 percent of the vote in recent elections in the country.
  • 3. Kim Jong-il dies (Dec. 17) — North Korea’s long-serving “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-il died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 69 while travelling on a train. Kim had ruled the nuclear-armed nation, which boasts the fourth-largest army, since 1994. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, appears to have succeeded his father as supreme leader of the secretive nation.
  • 2. Osama bin Laden killed (May 2) — Osama bin Laden, the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Within hours of the 54-year-old’s death, his body was buried at sea. Bin Laden was the founder of al Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • 1. Japan earthquake and tsunami (March 11) — A magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Japan on March 11 about 80 miles east of Sendai. The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami which left about 20,000 dead and caused an estimated $218 billion in damage. The earthquake and tsunami also damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing a nuclear crisis.

Compiled by John Haydon.
Sources: The Washington Times, Vancouver Sun and Associated Press.