The year has almost come to a close, and while some stories are still unfolding, there have been many moments to remember, and some we would like to forget.
Thus, here are 10 top stories of 2011 according to both impact and public out-pouring or emotion and interest:
1) Japan earthquake and recovery. At 2:46 p.m. local time on March 11 Japan was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake centered off the coast of Honshu. More than 20,000 people were killed, tens of thousands more were left homeless, and Japan's economy was rocked. Road and rail lines were damaged, water and sewage systems were disrupted and damaged, and electric lines were damaged. Also, several nuclear power stations damaged in the massive earthquake became a concern, including the Fukishima plant, which lost power and overheated. Radiation concerns necessitated an 18-mile evacuation and no-fly zone before the situation was brought under control.
2) Osama in Laden killed. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. managed to hide out for almost a decade despite the world's most aggressive global manhunt and a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing. On May 1, U.S. President Barack Obama decided to send a small U.S. force into a compound where Obama was believed to be hiding in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden was killed in the raid, and after DNA confirmation was buried at sea. Obama announced bin Laden's killing in a televised address.
3) Steve Jobs dies. Apple co-founder and long-time CEO Steve Jobs died on October 5 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Hailed as one of the greatest innovators ever, Steve Jobs had recently retired as Apple's longtime CEO, after serving two stints in the job, due to his illness. That was also one of the top stories of the year, but in the end, his departure from Apple was nothing compared to his death, which stunned and saddened the world.
4) Gabrielle Giffords shooting. While hosting a public event in her district, Rep. Gabrielle Giffods (D-AZ.) was shot in the head by a gunman by Jared Lee Loughner. Six people were killed, including a nine-year-old girl. News reports suggested that Giffords had died in the shooting initially, yet despite taking a bullet through the head, Giffords miraculously survived. She was released from the hospital in the summer and continues to recover.
5) Occupy Wall Street. Much like the Arab Spring, it all started with one Tweet. On a summer day in New York's Lower Manhattan, an otherwise unrelated group of people gathered to begin a protest called Occupy Wall Street. It lasted for months, and is still going, leading some to call it a movement of those fed up with what they claim is the coddling of the rich and big corporations by the government leading to a hollowing out of society economically. The movement led to such mass-shared stories as Warren Buffett's op-ed in The New York Times titled, Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.
6) The Penn State scandal. Speaking of the establishment, and the problems that can occur with it -- few stories touched a nerve in 2011 more than the Penn State scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, charged with abusing young boys sexually. The scandal is still unfolding, and though Sandusky maintains his innocence it has already resulted in the firing of legendary football Joe Paterno. Regardless of how it unfolds in the end, the story speaks volumes to the taboos involving both sexual abuse victims and institutions that think they are bigger than the laws which govern and protect.
7) The London riots. It began with a peaceful protest in early August over the fatal shooting of a man named mark Duggan by police. Two days later, it was fully-involved rioting which last for four days throughout several London boroughs and districts of other towns in the UK. In all, several thousand were arrested, five people died and dozens of others were injured in the night-time riots, fueled by social media connectivity. Property damage from looting and rioting was extensive.
8) Moammar Gadhafi ousted, killed. The longtime leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi (Gaddafi) was killed on October 20, 2011 in cross-fire between rebels and loyalist fighters in Libya when the rebels in Gadhafi's birthplace of Sirt attempted to take the ousted colonel, who was wounded after an attack, to an ambulance. Gadhafi had been hiding in a large sewer pipe in Sirt. The leader of Libya since 1969, his ouster was also one of the top stories of the year. Gadhafi was overthrown in a civil war.
9) Celebrity deaths -- Ryan Dunn and Amy Winehouse. It seems demeaning to place celebrity deaths among top headlines of the year, but we don't make the news, we just report it. Such is the world we live in, as the death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn was one of the most-shared stories of 2011, according to Facebook. He died in a car crash, while speeding and driving drunk in June. The next month singer Amy Winehouse made similar waves throughout the world when she died in London on July 23.
10) Hurricane Irene. The first hurricane to strike the U.S. since Ike in 2008, Irene was a menace to the East Coast in August, making a direct hit on New Jersey and New York, while knocking out power for almost 50 million people and flooding Vermont. Irene caused widespread destruction, killing 56 people and causing an estimated $10 billion in damage. For days in August, Irene virtually shut down the entire U.S. East Coast.