The news alerts gushed in: an attack on a concert, a church, an ice cream parlour; an assailant wielding a gun or hammer or acid. There’s an earthquake in Mexico, a monsoon in India, a volcanic eruption in Bali, hurricane after hurricane after hurricane. The volatile year of 2017 shook us so much and so often it felt like whiplash or worse. “It’s almost like one of those horror rides at the amusement park where every time it heads into the next segment it gets worse,” said noted trendspotter Marian Salzman. The year, she said, boiled down to “disruption, despair and dumpster fires.”
In retrospect, 2017’s destiny seemed sealed in its opening moments. Just after the New Year dawned in Istanbul, a gunman killed 39 people at a nightclub and wounded scores more.
Around the world this year, vehicles were made into weapons, with trucks, cars and vans ploughing down people on the Westminster and London bridges in Britain; in Times Square and on a Manhattan bike path, with Argentines among the dead; on a major shopping street in the Swedish capital of Stockholm; on the historic La Rambla in Barcelona. Terrorism and other violence struck so regularly that many accepted it as a fact of life.
A deadly chemical attack in Syria stirred people around the globe. Missile launches by North Korea brought angst that nuclear war was nearing. Rallies by white supremacists, wearing white hoods and clasping torches, roused uncomfortable memories of the United States’ past. All of it broke with such ferocity, it seemed impossible to focus on any one incident too long.
In Egypt, twin Palm Sunday attacks ambushed Coptic Christians and a November assault on a crowded mosque killed more than 300. In Britain, 22 people died when a suicide bomber detonated a backpack full of explosives after an Ariana Grande show.
Meanwhile, three major storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — battered Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean, as well as Texas and Florida. Fires tore through California and Portugal; earthquakes rocked Mexico, Iran and Iraq.
Amid the barrage, other big stories struggled for a spotlight. A grinding civil war in Yemen pushed millions in the impoverished country to famine. Crisis in Venezuela brought intensifying clashes. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was ousted from control after a 37-year reign. In Spain, a push for Catalonian independence degenerated at times into ugly scenes of mayhem.
Let’s hope a new calendar page brings with it the chance to start fresh.