Big news stories that defined the decade.
10. Haiti Earthquake
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti about 15 miles southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince. Buildings trembled and collapsed, trees collapsed, and several aftershocks followed in the subsequent days. When it was all said and done, there were more than 300,000 casualties. “In the days that followed, tractors picked up bodies as if they were rubbish,” Naromie Marline Joseph Fatal, a psychological support worker with MSF in Haiti, told The Independent. “After the earthquake… psychological support was needed on a massive scale. The level of need was huge – there were bereaved parents, depressed people, the shock of the deaths. I began working full time with MSF, as they were the only organization who were taking care of people with psychiatric needs. It needs to be said that what happened pushed people who were already fragile over the edge.”
9. The Death of Osama bin Laden
After spending a decade in hiding, Al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden was finally located in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed by a team of Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Just a few hours after his death, then-U.S. President Barack Obama declared, “The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.” The killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist would become a defining moment in Barack Obama’s presidency.
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Tohoku, Japan, on March 11, 2011, would result in tsunami waves that damaged the backup generators at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The event would become the second worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power generation! All three of the reactors that were operating were shut down, but the loss of power caused the cooling systems to fail in each of them. Rising heat in the reactors’ cores caused the fuel rods to overheat and partially melt, releasing radiation into the air. Explosions from the buildup of pressurized hydrogen gas followed. Then came a third explosion a few days later, leading to even higher levels of radiation being released. Some 47,000 residents had to evacuate the area, with residents in nearby areas preparing to leave if necessary. By March 2017 all evacuation orders in the areas outside the “Difficult-To-Return” zone (where radiation levels were high enough to cause skin cancer) had been lifted.
7. Barack Obama Got Elected to a Second Term
On November 6, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected to office for a second term, defeating Republican Mitt Romney by 126 electoral votes. Obama also won the popular vote — 51.1 to 47.2 percent. This made him the 11th president and third Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote more than once.
FUN FACT: Obama carried all the states he’d won in the 2008 election, with the exception of North Carolina, Indiana, and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.
6. The #MeToo Movement
Reports of sexual abuse surfaced against American film producer Harvey Weinstein on October 5, 2017, giving birth to a defining social media movement known as #MeToo. Both female and male victims of sexual abuse flooded Twitter and other social networks, sharing their own experiences of harassment and sexual assault, some of which included abuse by celebrities and other prominent figures.
FUN FACT: Although the #MeToo movement didn’t take off on social media until 2017, civil rights activist Tarana Burke coined the phrase “Me Too” in 2006. The phrase was intended to help women who had survived sexual violence.
On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The country was due to exit on October 31, 2019, but due to several delays, the exit date has been pushed back to January 31, 2020. The good news is that the government’s Brexit bill has passed its first hurdle in Parliament, as expected, and if all else goes according to plan, the European Parliament will give the green light and the UK will formally leave the European Union with a withdrawal deal. After that, it will go into a transition period that is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020.
On July 25, 2010, media organization WikiLeaks, which deals with classified information, released over 91,000 internal reports on the U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan. The reports, known as the Afghan War Diary, were withheld from the public prior to their release. “The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers, and mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related details,” the WikiLeaks website said.
3. The Discovery of an Exoplanet That has the Potential to Host Life
Discovered in 2016, Proxima Centauri b is just four light-years away from Earth. It’s 1.3 times the mass of Earth, and even though it lies in the habitable zone, its surface is likely chilly (-40 C) and its red dwarf star could prove to be unstable. This, in turn, would cause too much radiation for humans to handle. Still, because it’s in the habitable zone and it’s a rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun, “there is a reasonable expectation that this planet might be able to host life,” Guillem Anglada-Escudé, co-author of the research from Queen Mary, University of London, told The Guardian.
2. The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that state bans on same-sex marriage and on recognizing same-sex marriages duly performed in other jurisdictions were unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses. “Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted that the right to marry is a fundamental right ‘inherent in the liberty of the person’ and is therefore protected by the due process clause, which prohibits the states from depriving any person of ‘life, liberty, or property without due process of law’,” an article published by Encyclopaedia Britannica reads.
1. Donald Trump’s Impeachment
This story isn’t quite over with yet. In fact, we’ve just begun to scratch the surface. But, here’s the gist of it. In December 2019, Donald Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. This was after the Democratic-led House of Representatives charged him with committing high crimes and misdemeanors. As of the time of this writing, the GOP-controlled Senate has yet to move to a trial. Because the president is a Republican, it’s highly unlikely that the Senate will impeach him. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on Fox News that he would be in “total coordination” with Team Trump as the impeachment process advances.
Your turn! What are some of the biggest stories you remember from the decade? Leave a comment below.