We don’t know what Stephen Paddock was doing last New Year’s Eve. The same is true of Devin Kelley and Sayfullo Saipov.
At this time last year nobody besides their family, friends and acquaintances knew these people’s names, or cared a whit about them.
Today, as we prepare to bid farewell to 2017 and welcome a new year, these men are part of history, and not in a good way.
On Oct. 1, Paddock barricaded himself in a Las Vegas hotel room and opened fire on concert-goers below, killing 58 people and wounding 546 others. Authorities are still struggling to determine why he did it.
On Nov. 5 Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and began shooting everyone he encountered. By the time he left the building, 26 people were dead, and 20 were wounded. Kelley, who was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force for abusing his wife and child, was apparently angry with his mother-in-law, a member of the church where the massacre took place.
On Halloween, Saipov allegedly rented a truck and drove it down a bike path in New York City, killing eight. He at first claimed loyalty to the terror group ISIS, but since has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
That’s not to mention similar vehicle attacks in Barcelona, London and Stockholm, and the arena bombing in Manchester, England, off of which resulted death and despair.
In many respects the year to which we are about to bid adieu has been a terrible, horrible, no good very bad year.
Other names come to mind as we look back on 2017, like Harvey, Irma and Maria, killer hurricanes that left death and destruction in their wake.
Another Harvey was prominent in the news of the year that is about to fade into eternity. This Harvey’s last name is Weinstein. The movie mogul’s sexual improprieties sparked the #MeToo movement, prompting women and men to step out of the shadows of fear and shame and point fingers at their abusers bringing down formerly powerful and prominent men like actor Kevin Spacey, news anchor Matt Lauer, pundit Mark Halperin, comedian Louis C.K., journalist Charlie Rose and celebrity chef Mario Batali, among others.
It was a year of change. January saw the inauguration of a new president, Donald J. Trump, which to his supporters was a bright spot, to his detractors a blot. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” in Washington, to declare an end to “business as usual” in the capital of bull-headed partisanship. He has brought change, to be sure. Good change? That remains to be seen.
Trump promised to “Make America Great Again,” while some who claim to support him seem bent on making America hate again.
A rally organized by a group known as “Unite the Right,” in Charlottesville, Va., left one counter-protester dead and more than 19 injured, and evoked memories of Ku Klux Klan marches fueled by racism and illuminated by flaming torches.
Some professional football players chose to kneel during the national anthem to protest the treatment of black people in this country, sparking a national debate as well as a backlash against the NFL.
2017 brought us closer to war with North Korea and its brash young leader Kim Jong Un. Both Trump and Kim seem to relish exchanging threats and insults. Here’s hoping they stick to a war of words and don’t begin fighting for real.
In August the president declared America’s opoid epidemic a national emergency. How ironic that drugs developed to reduce pain are now causing so much agony.
On the positive side, Americans were united, for one day at least, by our fascination with the total solar eclipse that swept across the nation in late August. There’s another bit of irony, that one of the few bright spots in the year came from a strip of darkness caused by the moon passing in front of the sun.
To be sure good things happened in 2017 as well. The economy improved, Roy Moore lost his Senate bid, heroes emerged in the wake of the devastating hurricanes and California wildfires and a Texas mosque burned down. The mosque burning down was not good, of course, but what happened afterward was.
Churches and synagogues offered space for the mosque’s members to worship, and helped raise more than a million dollars for a new building.
They broke ground in May and by September the mosque’s members were distributing emergency supplies to victims of Hurricane Harvey.
We can only pray 2018 brings us more stories like that of the Texas mosque, stories of love and unity rather than hate and division.
Happy New Year.
Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in October after 41 years with the Enid News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.