As the new year rolls around it’s time to reflect on the past year and all the milestones both nationally and locally that impacted the lives of East Tennesseans.
On the local front the biggest news of the year was the tragic school bus crash that took the lives of two students and a teacher in Knoxville. The crash occurred Dec 2. When a bus crossed the center line and collided with another.
In sports, University of Tennessee head Coach Butch Jones led the Vols to the first bowl game since 2010. The Vols will face off against Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl in January.
On the state level Governor Bill Haslam won a second term as governor, Three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices, including Gary Wade of Sevierville, held onto their seats after a contentious election.
On the national level protesters in Ferguson, Missouri took to the streets violently protesting, robbing and looting and attacking other residents after a grand jury failed to indict a white police officer in the slaying of a black teen that assaulted him. The teen’s DNA was found inside the police car after he attempted to take the officer’s gun away from him.
The Ebola outbreak in Africa was declared the largest in history. The outbreak started in West Africa and soon afflicted 12,400 victims. As of Christmas 7,588 people died from the disease. Humanitarian efforts to contain the disease took a catastrophic turn of events when the disease was brought to U.S. soil by infected healthcare workers returning home.
The death toll from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan surpassed 6,800 by Dec. of 2014. During 2014, the death toll of private contractors killed in the two conflicts reached 6,790.
The deaths of two Hollywood icons who took their own lives shook the entertainment world. In Feb. Academy Award winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent Heroin overdose. Legendary comedian Robin Williams died in August of an apparent suicide after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Williams had won an Academy Award for his performance in “Good Will Hunting.”
Other notable deaths in 2014 include actor Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, Lauren Becall, Ann B. Davis, Richard Attenborough, Joan Rivers, Bob Hoskins, Maya Angelou, Casey Kasem, Eli Wallch, James Brady, S. Truett Cathy, Jean Claude-Duvalier, Ariel Sharon and Harold Ramis among many others.
Of local significance was the death of Howard Baker Jr. who died in June at the age of 88. Baker served as a U.S. Senator and is best remembered for his role in the Watergate hearings during which he asked President Richard M. Nixon what he knew and when he knew it.
Perhaps the most bizarre news of 2014 was the postponed release of the movie “The Interview.” The movie is a political comedy directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Rogen and James Franco play as journalists instructed to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (played by Randall Park) after booking an interview with him.
In June 2014, the North Korean government threatened “merciless” action against the United States if the film’s distributor, Columbia Pictures, went ahead with the release. Columbia delayed the release from October 10 to December 25, and reportedly edited the film to make it more acceptable to North Korea. In November, the computer systems of parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment were hacked by the “Guardians of Peace”, a group the FBI believes has ties to North Korea. After leaking several other then-upcoming Sony films and other sensitive internal information, the group demanded that Sony pull The Interview, which it referred to as “the movie of terrorism”. On December 16, 2014, the Guardians of Peace threatened terrorist attacks against cinemas that played the movie. The movie received support from President Barack Obama who encouraged the release of the film rather that to give in to terrorist threats.
The economy continued to languish in 2014 and the United States slipped to the number two largest economy in the world second only to China whose emerging economy grabbed the number one spot.