Julian is a filmmaker and photographer. He received his M.A. in Communication from Wichita State and currently works for Yale University.
Crazy Things That Happened in 2021
The events of 2020 make it a hard year to top in terms of insanity, and while that's what most people were thinking, in entered 2021 to challenge that consensus.
2021 saw the human race battle new strains of COVID-19, as well as a plethora of other social and global events that continually piled up to make 2021 progressively crazier as the months rolled on. It's often a surprise to look back and realize how much can happen in a single year—sometimes, it seems as though certain recent events happened a lifetime ago!
In honor of one of the craziest years in recent history, this article discusses the following 10 wild and unexpected things (in no particular order) that happened in 2021:
- Squid Game Makes Netflix History
- Tour de France Pile-Up
- China Experiences Intense Flooding
- Record Heat Takes Lives and Cooks 1 Billion Sea Creatures to Death
- Remington Submits Thousands of Memes in Sandy Hook Court Case
- Colonial Pipeline Suffers Ransomware Catastrophe
- Suez Canal Blocked By a Mega-Ship
- Assassination of Haitian President
- Taliban Swiftly Regains Control of Afghanistan
- January 6th U.S. Capitol Insurrection
1. Squid Game Makes Netflix History
To start things off "light-hearted," so to speak, 2021 marked the year that Netflix heavyweight Bridgerton was unseated by Squid Game as Netflix's biggest ever series launch in history.
A dystopian series where Korean children's games become deadly puzzles for desperate people drowning in debt, Squid Game's popularity exploded. The series spawned everything from discussions about the anti-capitalist themes of the show to memes and fashion trends, cementing the show as a cornerstone of 2021 culture.
The show, released to critical and popular acclaim, was described by Karl Quinn of The Age as "enormously derivative," with many similarities being drawn between the 2014 Japanese film As the Gods Will, The Hunger Games series, and Battle Royale.
However, and despite this, Quinn wrote that "there are two tensions that elevate Squid Game. One is within the narrative, where the primacy of the individual is in direct combat with the notion of community, and where the illusion of 'choice' justifies all manner of exploitation."
2. Tour de France Pile-Up
During the Tour de France in 2021, a woman holding a sign caused a mass pileup of competitors when she tried to get the attention of one of the cameras capturing the race. The cardboard sign bore an affectionate message to her grandparents, long-time fans of the race.
The woman faced away from the cyclists and stepped onto the road—which is when German rider Tony Martin hit her, setting off a dominoes-like series of collisions. The instance went immediately viral, and French authorities began searching for the woman with the intent to bring her to trial for the incident.
The woman turned herself in several days later and entered court in December 2021 under charges of involuntarily causing injury and putting others' lives at risk. The prosecutors stated that the woman felt ashamed of her actions, realized it was a mistake, and regrets it enormously.
"What we want from this trial is that it helps ensure this does not happen again. Cycling is dangerous enough in itself, no need for additional risks. People on the side of the road must act responsibly."
— Romuald Palao, lawyer for the Professional Cyclists' Association
The court reached a verdict on December 9th, 2021. The woman was found guilty of reckless endangerment and involuntarily causing injuries and fined 1,200 euros (about $1,358). This was a considerably lighter punishment than prosecutors had pushed for in her October trial, which was a four-month suspended prison sentence.
3. China Experiences Intense Flooding
The intense flooding China has experienced for the better part of 2021 left nearly 600 people dead or missing between January and October 2021 and has affected nearly 2 million people.
The flooding was caused by prolonged periods of heavy rain in the country, including a staggering near-8 inches of rainfall in an hour, the highest recorded measurement since 1951. The resulting flood was tremendous, collapsing thousands of homes and leaving tens of thousands of residents with a need to evacuate and resettle.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has stated that this extreme rainfall is likely the result of climate change. According to the WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, "as the atmosphere gets warmer, it holds more moisture which means it will rain more during storms, increasing the risk of floods."
Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, record 7.95 inches of rainfall in just one hour, the highest amount captured since recording began in 1951. In a span of 3 days in mid-July, Zhengzhou experienced 24.29 inches of rainfall, which is more than the annual average.
4. Record Heat Takes Lives and Cooks 1 Billion Sea Creatures to Death
Summer 2021 saw an unprecedented heatwave strike the United States Pacific Northwest and the Canadian coast, shattering all-time highs for temperatures in the area. The sudden onset of heat led to hundreds of human deaths, with Oregon seeing 100+ and British Columbia seeing nearly 500 deaths in a 5-day span.
The town of Lytton in British Columbia was almost completely decimated by fires. The mayor, Jan Polderman, said that the town was overwhelmed by a wall of flames and that he barely made it out with his own life.
In addition to this, the heat also cooked an estimated 1 billion sea creatures to death, a majority of which were mussels.
Along with the terrible toll on human lives lost to the heat, the loss of such a large swath of marine life is likely to have detrimental effects on the environment. Mussels, in particular, are an intermediary step in the food chain and play an important role in filtering particles out of the water.
It's believed to be the worst die-off of marine life in nearly 15 years.
5. Remington Submits Thousands of Memes in Sandy Hook Court Case
Since the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, firearms manufacturer Remington has filed for bankruptcy and has been embroiled in a lawsuit for wrongful marketing brought forward by nine Sandy Hook families.
In July of 2021, during the discovery portion of the lawsuit, Remington filed tens of thousands of memes, videos, and gifs to the prosecution, the most famous of which is pictured above—an image of a dead Minion from Despicable Me sliced up like a stead with the words "filet minion."
The bizarre nature of the company's actions immediately put the entire ordeal into meme territory itself and raised a number of questions behind Remington's rationale.
The images and videos dumped on the prosecution were unordered and uncategorized, leading the Sandy Hook families to believe the most was intentional in order to make their lawyers waste significant amounts of time poring over the immense assortment of content that was provided.
But these cartoons are not all. There are also another 15,825 image files of people go-karting, riding dirt bikes, and socializing, another 1,521 video files of gender reveal parties and the ice bucket challenge, not to mention multiple duplicate copies of Remington catalogues.
— Rob Ryser, The Connecticut Post
Buried deep within a mountain of memes, gender-reveal and ice-bucket-challenge videos, and irrelevant pictures of people socializing sporting were only 2,200 emails. With no metadata or method of sorting the mass of documents, it took considerable time to locate these emails. The number of emails was also suspicious, as a company the size of Remington sends around 40,000 emails each year.
6. Colonial Pipeline Suffers Ransomware Catastrophe
On May 7th, 2021, U.S. oil pipeline company Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack at the hands of an international criminal hacking group. The pipeline transports diesel and jet fuel from Texas to New York and delivers roughly 45% of New England's fuel. The attack led to fuel shortages across the northeast and was reportedly due to the compromising of a single password on the company's virtual private network.
Essentially, the hackers compromised Colonial's computer programs and demanded they pay a ransom in order to regain control of their operations. Colonial ultimately paid the ransom (about $5 million in Bitcoin) to regain control of their systems. Partnering with the FBI, the identity of the group of hackers was discovered.
The hack was attributed to EU-based criminal hackers DarkSide, and the FBI managed to recover $2.3 worth of the Bitcoin payment Colonial made to the hackers.
7. Suez Canal Blocked by a Mega-Ship
March of 2021 saw the Suez Canal blocked by a mega-ship, the Ever Given, for 6 days, costing billions of dollars in trade revenue and becoming one of the biggest news stories of the year. It was transporting over 20,000 cargo containers from China to the Netherlands.
Sudden, strong winds forced the Ever Given to turn slightly while passing through the canal, causing the hull of the ship to hit the bottom of the canal, where it subsequently became stuck.
For six days, Egyptian and international teams worked around the clock to dislodge the Ever Given from the canal that was home to 12% of global trade traffic. Though tensions ran high among those involved, it was eventually a combination of high tides and the removal of 27,000 metric tons of sand that allowed the ship to break free.
Ultimately, due to nearly a week's worth of trade route disruption, the Suez Canal block cost roughly $9.6 billion worth of trade every day. Over 350 ships were caught behind the Ever Given in the blockage and caused other transport ships to reroute around the canal, costing them money and adding eight days to their trips.
8. Assassination of Haitian President
On July 7th, 2021, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home by a group of foreign mercenaries that consisted of 26 Columbians and 2 Haitian-Americans. Four of the assailants were killed by Haitian law enforcement, and two more were apprehended soon after the assassination.
Haiti was already facing public unrest as protesters met on the streets in protest of Moïse ruling through decree for more than a year after his term had expired, as suggested by legal and constitutional experts.
It was reported that at least 26 members of the 28-man team that assassinated Moïse were hired by Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian national who may have been looking to use the opportunity to become president of Haiti.
In total, 44 individuals were apprehended in relation to or for questioning about the assassination of Moïse.
9. Taliban Swiftly Regain Control of Afghanistan
After nearly 20 years of involvement in Afghanistan, the U.S. had (supposedly) had intentions of withdrawing its troops for a number of years, and that promise finally came to be in 2021 under the Doha Agreement (or the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan).
The agreement, signed by the United States and Taliban and supported by a majority of the world powers, guaranteed the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban's assurance that they would prevent Al-Quaeda from operating in areas under Taliban control.
Despite this, insurgents continued to lead attacks against Afghan forces, and the Taliban took complete control of Afghanistan as the United States withdrew its troops on August 30, 2021.
The withdrawal was ultimately hurried and chaotic, with Afghan citizens even clinging to U.S. planes as they took off in an attempt to escape the country with the withdrawing troops.
A war that lasted two decades and spanned four presidencies finally came to end with things seemingly falling back into place in Afghanistan as they were when the United States invaded the country in 2001. The results came with positive to mixed views from many, including veterans, though many were also critical of Biden's handling of the situation. Biden doubled down on the pullout.
10. January 6th U.S. Capitol Insurrection
Arguably one of the wildest things that happened in 2021 took place in the very first week of the year, as if 2021 were determined to tell 2020 to hold its beer as soon as possible.
On January 6th, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the United States capitol after demonstrations and attending a Trump rally held a short distance from where U.S. senators were working to ratify then-president-elect Joe Biden's victory over Trump. The event occurred after nearly two months of Trump working to delegitimize the election results, which he backtracked on in order to save face a mere day after the insurrection.
After breaking into the capitol building, rioters proceeded to break into senatorial offices, rifling through papers, taking selfies at desks, and stealing items such as laptops and even a lectern.
The senators were able to safely evacuate their chamber before the rioters gained access, one even photographed with zip-tie handcuffs indicating malicious intent, with one capitol guard heroically leading the pro-Trump rioters away from where the U.S. senators were evacuating.
Ultimately, the event could have had more serious consequences, but it was terrifying to watch unfold, knowing that the U.S. capitol building could be infiltrated as quickly and easily as it had by an unorganized mob of people who had truly no idea or plan as to what they were doing. And that's a wild, wild thing to occur in one of the places in the U.S. that is supposedly the most secure.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.