Opinion: A Reflection on 2021


Credit: Kally Proctor

WSPN’s Kally Proctor discusses and summarizes some of the highlights and significant events of 2021.

Kally Proctor

With all the craziness that began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was a rollercoaster year, filled with ups, downs, more downs and a few more ups for good measure. Whether it was the riot at the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6, the late arrival of what was meant to be the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics or the launch of the first commercial flight to space, 2021 was most definitely a memorable year.

Here are some of the highlights and significant events that occurred this past year:

Presidential Election Fallout… Pro-Trump Protestors Storm the U.S. Capitol
In an appalling and horrifying incident, a mob of pro-Trump protestors stormed the U.S. capitol on Jan. 6 following the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Those who attended the riot would later describe the mob as violent and frenzied, and indeed many who were there that day feared for their safety. The aftermath of such an occurrence would sow suspicion and alarm in many American citizens and leave a scar on American democracy.

Inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris
The Democrats take power. On Jan. 20, just a couple weeks after the insurrection at the capital, the new administration was inaugurated and new legislation was passed. After President Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States, a $1.9 trillion new infrastructure bill was signed, followed by a political logjam as the Democrats failed to pass a jumbo social spending package. Kamala Harris was also inaugurated as the Vice President, becoming the first woman, first woman of color and first Asian American to serve as either vice president or president, as well as the first black American to serve as vice president. This step forward represents for many the progress that we are making as a country, and I certainly believe that Harris’ barrier-breaking win will only be the first of many to come.

The Rise of the Delta Variant
With the emergence of the delta variant of COVID-19 in the United States, many people become all the more worried about their health and safety. Delta, according to the CDC, was 2x more contagious than previous variants.

We’re OK.
With the approval and launch of the COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, things start returning to some semblance of business as usual. Following the rolling out of these vaccines in May, many events start to return to normal, including the return to in-school learning, as well as events with fans/large groups of people, etc. such as concerts and sporting events. Things finally seem like they might be improving.

Tokyo 2020 2021, Postponed Summer Olympics Finally Starts
The postponed Tokyo Summer Olympics finally launches off in July – a year late. As athletes from all around the world gather together in an amazing event that seems almost-normal, Olympic records are broken and history is made. In addition, athletes open up about mental health, starting conversations to reduce the stigma around the issue. While the event was held with little to no spectators, the event brought back some sense of normalcy and community.

Up, Up, and Away.
Private space travel takes off as the rich and famous launch the first commercial flights to space. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Tesla CEO Elon Musk pioneered the first flights to space with civilian astronauts this year. Amidst all the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was refreshing to have some other news to watch or read about – and a nice reminder of our society’s ever-improving progress in the field of space travel.

U.S. Withdraws from Afghanistan
The United States hastily abandons Afghanistan, with the last of the troops finally being withdrawn in August. The action is regarded by some as an indication of the failure of the United States in the war in Afghanistan. Following the United States’ withdrawal, the Taliban takes control, sweeping to victory in the country.

Bellwether Verdicts: Derek Chauvin Convicted of Killing George Floyd, Kyle Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty
The trials and verdicts of two shocking cases connected to the recent racial movements in the United States occurred this year. In June of 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. On the flip side, in November, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted and found not guilty on the basis of self defense. While many saw Chauvin’s verdict to be a step in the right direction, the outcome of Rittenhouse’s case appeared to some to be a confirmation of America’s biased justice system.

Omicron Spike
The new omicron variant of COVID-19 erupts, spiking the number of cases and COVID-19 deaths worldwide. Arriving in November, the variant is said to be the most contagious one so far, spreading more easily than previous variants. For some people, along with the omicron variant came a sense of dread. At the arrival of the omicron variant, some people have communicated feelings that the pandemic will never end. They are also expressing a sense of worry at the continued rise of new variants and the mounting death toll worldwide. Watching all of this unfold, I can’t help but to agree.

Life Goes On…
In-school learning and most extracurricular activities resume at Wayland High School (and many schools nationwide), albeit with masks and social distancing. Seemingly few cases of COVID-19 are announced among students and faculty, and no serious COVID-19 related injuries have been reported in our school system. It seems that we’re slowly but surely settling into a new normal here in Wayland; one that involves constantly wearing masks, diligently using hand sanitizer and staying six-feet apart at all times, but a routine nonetheless.