Close Video

Conflict & Tragedy

A year in review: Some of 2012's top events

Just as with years past where events took place that resonated with people everywhere, 2012 was no exception.

For better or worse, 2012 presented its own events, some of which will eventually fade into casual memories and others that will be forever etched into our collective consciences. From wars and rumors of wars in distant nations to man-made and natural disasters, 2012 was filled with many events that could easily qualify for this list.

There is no real way that we can truly quantify the impact that the following events had or will have. Each event has had its own unique effect on those within their spheres of influence, as well as those outside of them. Some of these made us laugh and some made us cry, while others outraged us and filled us with curious amusement.

And here they are, listed in order of occurrence:

The Syrian Civil War - Although the uprising began nearly two years ago, things greatly intensified in 2012. In addition to the fighting, the threat of chemical weapons use has now been added into the equation.

Conflicting reports have emerged with some alleging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad planned to use chemical weapons against rebel forces and civilians. Conversely, other reports say that rebel forces are planning a chemical attack. So far there has been one unconfirmed report of an unknown chemical agent allegedly used on civilians.

The Waldo Canyon fire - On June 23, 2012, a small brush fire exploded into one of the worst wildfires in Colorado history. By the time the firefighters brought it under control, two people were dead, along with 496 homes destroyed, 32,000 residents displaced and more than 29 square miles of forest incinerated. Although officials determined that the fire was human-caused, they have so far declined to say whether it was accidental or intentional. Damage is estimated at more than $350 million.

The Aurora movie theater massacre - Just as Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas were getting a handle on one of its worst natural disasters, on July 20 a former college student, for no apparent reason, allegedly walked into a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire during the premiere of Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. This became one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

Curiosity lands on Mars - As many people around the world watched, the Curiosity Lander, which was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Nov. 26, 2011, completed its more than 350 million mile trek through space and landed a mere 1.5 miles from its intended landing site. Thus begins the next chapter in the exploration of the Red Planet.

The US Embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya - On Sept. 11, the US consulate in Libya was attacked by what was initially said to be individuals who were offended by an anti-Muslim video on YouTube.

However, subsequent investigation revealed the attack was actually an organized terrorist assault. The attack left US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. The investigation also cited several security issues that were either ignored or overlooked which lead to the deaths.

Hurricane Sandy strikes the northeastern US - Despite Sandy being only a Category 1 storm when it made landfall in late October, it was the second-costliest hurricane in US history after Hurricane Katrina, causing an estimated $65 billion in damage. The storm also killed at least 253 people on its path toward the US.

Barack Obama is re-elected as president - On Nov. 6 Barack Obama made history for the second time by becoming the first African-American to be elected to the US presidency twice. Obama successfully defeated GOP candidate Mitt Romney after a bitter contest between the two. Obama is set to officially take the oath of office for his second term Jan. 20, 2013.

Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana - As President Obama was making his victory speech these two states were making preparations to pass legislation legalizing marijuana. Although still federally illegal, these states may have paved the way for others to follow suit. Marijuana legalization has long been a subject of controversy in the US.

Israel launches massive assault against Hamas - On Nov. 14, just over one week after the US presidential election was held, Israeli forces launched a massive attack against Gaza in retaliation for alleged continued rocket attacks by Hamas.

For ten days, Israel conducted hundreds of airstrikes on Hamas-held territories before a ceasefire was finally negotiated.

Egyptian President Morsi takes complete control of government - After taking office in June, Mohamed Morsi shocked the world after issuing decrees that gave him sweeping powers over the Egyptian government on Nov. 22. This move sparked protests from opposition and several supporters as well. Morsi defended his actions stating that they were necessary to protect the Constituent Assembly from judicial interference. On Dec. 8, Morsi annulled the decrees.

The Sandy Hook Elementary massacre - The year 2012 has certainly not been a year devoid of bloodshed but none such as the mass shooting that took the lives of 26 people including 20 children on Dec. 14. The aftermath of this horrible incident has once again reopened the issue of gun control in the US.

The Mayan Apocalypse - This was perhaps one of the most discussed "non-events" of the entire year. According to several "experts" on Mayan culture, the ancient civilization managed to do something that even modern science has failed at--predicting the end of the world down to the exact day.

Of course just as with previous end of the world predictions, there were those who undoubtedly took this as absolute proof that Dec. 21, 2012 would be the end of civilization as we know it. Needless to say, old Mother Earth is still on her journey around that big bright thing up in the sky called the sun, which incidentally happens to be the same one that shone upon our ancient Mayan brothers and sisters as they were putting the finishing touches on their shiny new long-count calender.

The Birth of a pop culture hit - In this age of electronic media, few can claim the accomplishment of one enterprising young man from South Korea. According to Wikipedia, the artist PSY's hit song "Gangnam Style" has boldly gone where no song has gone before. PSY's catchy little tune has wracked up an astonishing 1-billion-plus YouTube views. It is the first video in the history of the Internet to accomplish such a feat.

For those who have trouble wrapping their minds around this, if someone gave you one billion dollars to spend and you spent $1,000 per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it would take a mind-bending 114 years to spend it all.

Anyone able to do something like this certainly deserves a place on someone's top list.