Looking Back on 2019


Sal Donofrio, Student Editor, Student Editor

Another 365 days are in the books. As 2019 comes to a close, it is time to take a look back at the highs and lows. From mass shootings to moon landings, 2019 proved to be eventful. 

Political and government shakeup seemed to never end in 2019. A change in the US government started the moment 2019 began. Mark Esper assumed position as the Acting Secretary of Defense following the resignation of James Mattis. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election was reported completed. The 448 pages were released in a redacted form in order to protect members of a grand jury. The report says that the president did not commit a crime, but did not provide total exoneration. In December, the Democrat controlled House of Representatives drafted formal articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The US and Russia also withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), both citing that the other was not cooperating with the treaty. President Trump also became the first sitting US president to enter North Korea at the DMZ. In the UK, Brexit became more divisive, as the deadline to leave was continually postponed under prime ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Even with a Brexit deal in the air, a general election in the UK saw the pro-Brexit Conservative party win the majority in the British parliament. Venezuelan politician, Juan Guiadó, challenged Nicolás Maduro’s presidency, with 54 countries recognizing Guiadó as the president. In Sudan, over 100 protestors were killed after the Sudanese military stormed a protest camp outside of the military headquarters in the capital of Khartoum. The nation then proceeded to cut off access to services such as the internet, resulting in worldwide condemnation of the event. Citizens of Hong Kong continue to protest a bill that would allow for extradition to mainland China. While protests were successful in getting the government of Hong Kong to back down from the bill, protests continue due to practices used by the Hong Kong police force in crackdowns such as tear gas and rubber bullets. The US has come out in support of Hong Kong, with the unanimous passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The act calls for economic sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials who have violently cracked down on protestors.

President Donald Trump announced that US ground troops would withdraw from Syria many accused the president of abandoning the Syrian Kurdish Forces that helped do the majority of the ground fighting against ISIS. Simultaneously, Turkey invaded Northern Syria, in order to protect its own interests. Using the large movement for cover, the US military conducted a raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. 

On April 15th, 2019, the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire. Believed to have been caused by a short circuit, the wood-metal roof was seriously damaged, causing the central spire to fall. Within a week of the fire, €1 billion were pledged by various groups to rebuild the historic cathedral. While French president Emmanuel Macron hopes that the structure would be rebuilt by the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, experts have expressed doubt that the structure would be completely restored in the 5 year period.  

A plague of mass shootings struck throughout the year. Beginning in New Zealand when an Australian white supremacist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51. The attacks were streamed on Facebook, with videos from the attack being reposted 1.5 million times. In the US, August saw back to back mass shootings, the first being on August 3rd in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22. Thirteen hours later, a man in Dayton, Ohio opened fire on bargoers, killing nine. In Mexico, nine Americans were killed when gang members opened fire on a family driving to a wedding. Also in Mexico, 22 people were killed in a shootout between police and drug dealers. In the Czech Republic, six were killed after a man opened fire at a hospital. 

Weather and natural phenomena made headlines throughout the year. Hurricane Dorian caused massive devastation in the Bahamas. Official reports state that 52 were killed, with 1,300 missing. Overall, the hurricane caused over $8.28 million in damages. In New Zealand, the White Island volcano erupted, 47 people were present on the island at the time of the eruption. So far 14 have been killed and many were injured, 2 people remain missing. Due to the eruption, the situation is precarious, meaning that search-and-rescue and search-and-recovery operations have been severely impeded.   

The travel company Thomas Cook, filed for bankruptcy, stranding hundreds of thousands of tourists around the globe. 

Time magazine named teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year. 

Sports abroad saw the continuation of the Russian doping scandal. The World Anti-Doping Agency voted unanimously to ban Russia from international sports for four years, disqualifying them from the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In the US, the Nationals won the World Series against the Astros. Following the Nationals’ win, the Astros were accused of cheating and an investigation by the MLB was launched. Super Bowl LIII saw another Patriots win, this time over the Rams.   

Movies and TV saw firsts and lasts. The conclusion to the past ten years of Marvel movies released. Avengers: Endgame was able to dethrone James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time. Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix became the first R-rated movie to gross over $1 billion worldwide, making it the 35th highest grossing movie of all time. HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones came to an end after eight seasons. Disney acquired the rights to 21st Century Fox, taking notable properties such as The Simpsons

New milestones were set in space, China has become the first nation to land a probe on the far side of the moon, the first manmade object to do so. Elon Musk’s SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, achieved autonomous docking with the International Space Station while unmanned. A network of telescopes, called the Event Horizon Telescope, was able to take the first photo of a black hole. Lastly, SpaceIL, an Israeli based company launched a lunar lander, the first privately financed company to do so. 

In addition to space, new technology is set to revolutionize the world. Israeli scientists were able to 3D print a human heart made of human cells. Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 was grounded worldwide after Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after take off. Warnings about faults in the plane were discovered after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in 2018, but these warnings were ignored. Tesla unveiled its first all electric truck, Cybertruck. Lastly, an era ended when Volkswagens last beetle rolled off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico. 

2019 was very eventful, and the beginning of the new decade will bring an equally eventful year.