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A Look Back At 2019

By Jeffry Boatright

January is a time that we anticipate fresh starts, new achievements and better health. We want to put the past behind us and embrace all that is right. It is a time to acknowledge those who have positively impacted us and those who made us smile. We recognize the importance of reflecting on the past year or even the past decade to see what we got right. Conversely, we want to see where we went wrong so we might avoid the same mistakes.

Certainly, 2019 was not a happy year for everyone. Others, however, found joy in the year that was seemingly filled with headlines of tragedy, impeachment, violence, and turmoil. Amid all the negative press, wonderful things happened. Life-long marriage vows were taken, souls were saved, homes came alive with new babies and businesses found success. The Dow Jones opened at 23,058.61 on January 02, 2019 and closed at 28,538.44 on December 31, 2019, gaining 5479.83 points for the year.

On the world scene, we were all saddened and shocked last April when fire consumed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. For over eight centuries, the stately, historic landmark graced the European city, but its future remains uncertain following the tragic blaze.

Later that month, we sat on the edge of our seats, praying for the people of Venezuela as a failed coup to topple a socialist regime occurred. Later in the year, we would watch the protests in Hong Kong as residents fear the overextending hand of the Chinese government. Meanwhile, we watched in dismay as our own government feuded over trivial matters while the threat of violence and mass killings lingered.

We lost a host of iconic entertainers and celebrities last year, which included funny man Tim Conway, the incredible Doris Day, the witty Valerie Harper, and football great Bart Starr. Locally, we were saddened by the loss of countless loved ones. The whole community mourned the loss of Suwannee County Public Safety Director James Sommers, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash.

On a happier note, the talented Tom Hanks introduced a new generation to the immortal Mr. Rogers, portraying the beloved late Fred Rogers in the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. As the movie opened in theaters, candidates for the 2020 elections launched their campaigns. Many of us who viewed early Democratic presidential debates were left amused and confused.

Of course, the biggest national story of the year was the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. President Trump, who will likely remain President, joins Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton as the only three U.S. Presidents to be impeached in American history.

Another big national story that seized world attention in 2019 was that of Jeffrey Epstein. The convicted sex offender, who also happened to be a wealthy financier with ties to influential people, was being held without bond and charged with sex trafficking of minors when he was found hanging in his cell. Epstein’s associations and the circumstances surrounding his death have left many people with unanswered questions.

Locally, we chatted about the national debates of climate change, increasing the minimum wage, free college, border walls, vaping and, of course, gun laws. While these debates were not exclusive to 2019, they did seem to attract much of our attention.

One of North Florida’s greatest shocks in 2019 was when Jeffrey Siegmeister resigned from his office as state attorney. Representatives for the second-term state attorney cited personal reasons for his departure and Taylor County resident and veteran prosecutor David Phelps was named acting state attorney.

It was certainly another year of politics and entertainment colliding. A few conservative entertainers supported President Trump and his policies while many entertainers expressed their contempt for the President. Perhaps one of the most surprising alliances to form from the entertainment industry is that of famed musician Kanye West and megachurch leader Joel Osteen. Osteen and West have joined forces, bringing mixed emotions to parishioners and non-parishioners alike from across the country.

During the closing weeks of 2019, we were jolted with a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Once again, we were reminded of the 21st century perils when a Saudi Air Force officer killed three sailors and injured eight others. Less than a month later, another church shooting occurred near Fort Worth, Texas.

The year closed with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un remaining defiant while pro-Iranian demonstrators attacked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. In a sense, 2019 was an exclamation point added to the second decade of the 21st century.

Sadly, it was a decade of kneeling protests in sports and violence against police. Turmoil remained in the Middle East, but we did feel that justice had finally been served when Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011.

Both Columbia and Suwannee County have enjoyed the addition of new roads, providing bypass routes in the past decade. We’ve enjoyed the addition of many new businesses and restaurants, especially in Columbia County. Many Suwannee County residents celebrated after successfully voting the county wet in 2011. That decision, however, has seemingly had minimal impact on the county’s economy.

Perhaps the real story of the past decade was technology. Advancements in technology have revolutionized agriculture and entertainment, as well as the service and production industries. It’s certainly difficult to fathom just where technology might lead us by the end of this new decade.

Sure, we had our ups and downs in 2019, just as we had triumphs and disappointments throughout the past decade. Still, we must look at this new decade with optimism and hope. Maybe the best of the good life is still yet to come. Perhaps this new decade will bring about a new kind of Roaring 20s that is purer and less gilded.