(ABC4) – Well it wasn’t 2020, but that’s a pretty low bar.
The 2021 calendar year is nearly drawing to an end and in Utah and abroad, it was a year marked by the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, moments of political unrest, times of triumph, and lots and lots of discussion about vaccines.
You may have forgotten about some of the things that happened in 2021, but never fear, we went back and looked through the archive and identified some of the biggest moments, month-by-month of the year.
Here’s a look back at some of ABC4’s most important stories from each month of 2021:
A day that now lives in infamy, Jan. 6, will undoubtedly be remembered for the remainder of American history as the occasion when a rioting mob attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election with an attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
Shortly after the domestic terrorism event, Utahn John Sullivan was taken into custody for his participation with an insurrectionist group who joined the mob in Washington D.C. Sullivan also took video of the death of Ashley Babbitt, a rioter who was attempting to breach the Speaker’s Lobby of the building. Arrested in Tooele County, Sullivan has claimed to be a video journalist who intended to document the event to provide footage to the proper authorities. He was charged with entering a restricted building or grounds without authority; civil disorders; and violent entry or disorderly conduct.
As vaccination efforts began to ramp up in the United States and Utah, many were curious what exactly were the “rules” or guidelines for receiving an inoculation. The answers found in the story ‘How long should I wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine after having the virus?’ provided some of the most sought-after guidance for those who had already been infected with the illness. At the time, officials stated that those who had been infected should wait 90 days before getting a shot.
A deviation from pandemic headlines came in a blend of local entertainment and a global pop star when Pleasant Grove theme park, Evermore, and Taylor Swift became engaged in a legal battle. The park first filed a lawsuit against Swift for trademark infringement upon the release of her album that shared the same name. In turn, Swift’s legal team countered with a lawsuit of its own, alleging that Utah’s Evermore had been using her songs without paying for the proper licensing. Both sides eventually dropped their cases.
The third and final stimulus check issued by the IRS as part of the Economic Impact Payments was issued in March for a sum of $1,400. Unlike the first two, the round of checks that were issued in March, about a year another the pandemic had completely disrupted American and global life, were made available to all qualifying depending dependents, including college students, adults with disabilities, parents, and grandparents. The other two payments included a $1,200 sum in April 2020 and $600 around the holidays in Dec. 2020/Jan. 2021.
March 11, 2021, marked one year since Utah Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the coronavirus before a game in Oklahoma City, which essentially kicked off the U.S. response to the virus.
As vaccination efforts continued throughout the globe, many questions surfaced about how the shot would affect basic aspects of daily life. One of the most popular articles on ABC4.com during April included the answers to many of these questions, including how getting a vaccine shot would affect one’s ability to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage, travel via airplane, or take medication.
Around this time, a few conspiracies around the vaccine also picked up steam, including one based on a false theory that the shot included some sort of microchip tracker that was a brainchild of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Of course, reports of some injuries and side effects attributed to the vaccine didn’t help to quash the hesitancy around vaccination for many. Draper teenager Everest Romney, a basketball player at Corner Canyon High School, reportedly was hospitalized with blood clots inside and outside his brain after receiving the vaccine. While his parents believe there may have been a connection between his vaccination and his blood clotting, state health officials stated there was no link between the two events.
Real estate mavens and best friends John Maxim and David Cline created quite the stir around the state and even throughout the country when word got out that they had buried $10,000 cash somewhere along the Wasatch Front. Posting cryptic clues on social media, hundreds and maybe thousands of would-be treasure-finders hit the trails in search of the money. ABC4.com followed the story the whole way through, including the discovery of the treasure chest near Heughs Canyon Trail by Draper resident Andy Swanger on July 5, 17 days after it was initially buried.
On a national scale, Americans were shocked on the morning of June 24 to learn that a Miami-area condominium building had collapsed, killing dozens. Matthew Roblez, one of the top civil engineers in Utah, explained to ABC4.com that such an event is virtually unheard of in the United States.
As the Olympics were finally taking place in Tokyo, Japan after a year-long delay, Utah residents were performing their own stunts in Weber County. No medals were handed out however as increased reports of hammocking on power lines were considered extremely dangerous and borderline stupid. Fortunately, no reports of death or injury were made after officials condemned the activity, reminding residents that the lines carried 75,000 kilovolts of electricity.
In the thick of one of the worst droughts in state history, the weather was a top story in Utah throughout the summer. On August 6, the Salt Lake Valley was covered in a thick layer of smoke brought over from a massive fire in California. Trapped by the mountains that surround the valley, the smoke persisted for a few days, giving Utah residents the distinction of breathing the worst quality air on the planet over the weekend.
Not to be outdone, Utah had a large-scale fire of its own the next week, when a blaze ripped through Parleys Canyon, causing an evacuation of 8,000 homes in the Summit Country area.
In that same month, U.S. leaders came under heavy fire (not a literal fire, but a figurative fire – you know, the critical kind) after Taliban forces quickly retook Afghanistan after the withdrawal of American troops in the war-torn country.
The end of summer was highlighted by several major investigations that involved a homicide of some kind. The disappearance of Gabby Petito, and later, her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, was the top story in the country throughout September after Laundrie arrived home in Florida without Petito from a cross-country road trip the two had taken during the summer. During the trip, the couple had an explosive incident that involved police in Moab, creating further questions as to a possibly violent end to Petito’s life.
Her remains were found near Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19 with her death deemed in the manner of homicide by strangulation by forensic analysts. Laundrie was named a person of interest by the FBI and was pursued on an arrest warrant for fraud when he went missing later that month.
While the Laundrie-Petito case gripped the national and local news, a double homicide in Moab that resulted in the deaths of Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte, a couple living in the area, also caught renewed attention. For a while, investigators were looking into a possible connection between their deaths and Gabby Petito’s disappearance, but that led nowhere. Police are still looking for a break in the murders of the two, who were found dead at a campsite in Grand County on August 18.
At the end of September, the local community was rocked by another murder when University of Utah football player Aaron Lowe was gunned down at a Sugar House house party on Sept. 26. The Utes were already mourning the loss of Ty Jordan from the previous December when their agony was compounded by Lowe’s death during the season. It was made even more tragic by the fact that Lowe and Jordan were best friends and high school teammates in Texas. Lowe’s shooter, Buk Buk, was arrested and charged with aggravated murder, aggravated attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a restricted person, and obstruction of justice.
With the discovery of Brian Laundrie’s remains in Florida on Oct. 20, an unsatisfying conclusion was reached in the disappearance and death of his fiancé, Gabby Petito. Many questions remain as to what happened between the couple, who crossed through Utah on their summer road trip. The prevailing assumption, while not given official credence from investigators, was some sort of connection between her death by strangulation and his suicide by gunshot.
Locally, a federal court came down on St. George-based dietary supplement manufacturer, Grandma’s Herbs, for the distribution and promotion of unapproved and misbranded drugs, drawing ire and response from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Also, Utah’s favorite lame joke – Welcome to Utah, if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes! – had perhaps its best manifestation of the year on Oct. 25 when a bomb cyclone dropped an entire month’s worth of rain in a single night.
Despite playing with heavy hearts, the Utah football team built up steam, playing better and better as the 2021 season progressed. Playing perhaps its most important home game ever on Nov. 20, the Utes defeated third-ranked Oregon, 38-7, in front of the largest crowd ever at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The victory also gave head coach Kyle Whittingham the school record as Utah’s all-time winningest coach. In the big game, fans in person and watching on national television were dazzled by Utah’s uniforms, an homage to a WWII vessel, the USS Salt Lake City, complete with gorgeous, hand-painted helmets.
To finish off the year, marquee win of the best college football season ever for sports fans in the Beehive State was clinched when the Utah football program capped off their magical season with another beating of Oregon on Dec. 4 in the Pac-12 Championship Game to punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Another crime story dominated headlines in the final month of the year after Snow College student, Maddy Allen, was reported missing on Dec. 15. She had left her dormitory at the school on Dec. 13 and wasn’t found until Dec. 18. As it turned out, she had met a man from an online chat room, Brent Brown, who had driven her 70 miles away to his parents’ home in Loa, where he took her cell phone and kept the 19-year-old captive in a coal storage area until police located her using a phone ping.
Just a few more days remain in this year. It’s been a busy year for the newsroom at ABC4. Here’s hoping we all can soon close the book on 2021 and look forward to whatever 2022 brings.
Which stories from 2021 did we miss in the above story? Comment in the Facebook post below and let us know!