National HeadlinesThe first decade of the new millennium gave us landmark moments; here are 10.
Nov. 7, 2000 As the outcome of the presidential election hangs on Florida’s electoral votes, Palm Beach County’s ballots and their hanging, pregnant and dimpled chads soon become the subject of scrutiny. Ultimately, Florida junks its punch-ballot voting machines in favor of new, computerized technology.
Jan. 20, 2001 George W. Bush is sworn in as the nation’s 38th president, succeeding Bill Clinton. After eight years of Clinton, a cheer rises from the mostly conservative voters of the Emerald Coast.
Sept. 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijack four commercial jetliners, intentionally crashing two into the World Trade Center towers and another into the Pentagon. The fourth crashes into a field in Pennsylvania during a struggle between passengers and the hijackers. The death toll: 2,976 innocent victims and 19 hijackers. For the first time, Americans lose their sense of security within their own borders. The United States launches an international war on terrorism, invading Afghanistan.
March 19, 2003 The United States invades Iraq. President Bush defends the war as necessary because Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is believed to be developing weapons of mass destruction. No evidence of such weapons is ever found. Saddam is captured and executed. Today, about 140,000 American troops remain in Iraq. So far, 4,367 Americans have been killed; 31,577 have been wounded.
Sept. 16, 2004 Hurricane Ivan, a Category 3 storm, slams into Northwest Florida, causing about $13 billion worth of damage. At the decade’s end, scars from the storm remain in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.Dec. 26, 2004 A massive tsunami hits the coasts of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand without warning, killing 230,000 people. It is one of the worst natural disasters in modern history.Aug. 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, a massive Category 3 storm, hits the Louisiana-Mississippi coastline with a storm surge of more than 20 feet in places. Some 1,836 people are killed, many of them in New Orleans when the levees fail. Katrina causes an estimated $100 billion worth of damage. Summer 2005 A real estate boom comes to a screeching halt in Northwest Florida and the rest of the country. This marks the beginning of an economic downturn that turns into a full-blown recession by 2008. The federal government eventually spends more than $1.5 trillion bailing out banks and delivering an economic stimulus. At the end of the decade, national unemployment stands at 10 percent.
Nov. 4, 2008 Barack Obama is elected president. A Democrat, he is the nation’s first biracial president. Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize 10 months into his first year in office. He remains generally unpopular in GOP-heavy Northwest Florida. Jan. 12, 2010 A catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake hits Haiti approximately 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. Within a month, about a quarter-million people are confirmed dead.
“From terror to Twitter, what a decade it’s been!” by Pat Rice of Florida Freedom Newspapers (originally appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Dec. 12, 2009).