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Disasters & Accidents

As 2020 Fades In The Rearview Mirror, KLCC Revisits An Indescribable Year

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Brian Bull; NY National Guard; NIH; Eugene PD; Scott LaBounty
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KLCC; NIH; Oregon Athletics

2020 is almost over.  And many say: good riddance. The COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, riots, politics, and recession have all left their mark on Oregonians’ psyche…though there was a bright spot or two.

Let’s start with that bright spot: for college football fans, 2020 opened with a Rose Bowl win by the Oregon Ducks against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Announcer: “Stiff arm again, quarterback in the clear, inside the 10, a (unintelligible) touchdown from Justin Herbert!”

Two weeks later, President Donald Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. In February, Senate Republicans acquitted him.  Trump told supporters that the impeachment proceedings were a political maneuver to derail his re-election bid.

Trump: “This November, we’re going to defeat the radical socialist Democrats that are right down the street…” (CHEERS) (:09)

At the same time, the earliest cases of COVID-19 were emerging in the United States…a pandemic that the president said would simply “go away”.  But in March, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a lockdown after 14 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state.

Brown: “I’ve consulted with the Oregon Health Authority, and I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure that we are able to swiftly deploy the personnel and resources necessary to address coronavirus in Oregon.”

Currently, there are more than 110,000 cases, and roughly 1500 deaths in Oregon from the pandemic. Face masks, social distancing, and disinfecting have become the norm.  Offices and classrooms have gone virtual, thanks to teleconferencing software like ZOOM. Just remember to mute yourself if you’re speaking freely…

ZOOM: “I hate this class so damn much, plus I’m eating breakfast during it (laughter)….”

For many, this displacement of routine has spread confusion over schedules and time itself. 2020 began to feel like a Monday that never ended.

Speaking of time…eight minutes and 46 seconds.  That’s how long a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck right before his death in May.  The outrage over a video showing a white policeman ignoring a black man’s pleas fueled protests nationwide.  This included a May 29th vigil in Eugene that became a riot.

Since then, Eugene Police have arrested 21 people in connection with that night. But for the most part, the social justice marches have been peaceful. The names of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have also been chanted, with activists demanding police reforms. Eugene’s own mobile crisis service, CAHOOTS, has been seen as a model alternative.

Across the country, BIPOC activism led to the toppling of Confederate statues, or those commemorating controversial figures such as Christopher Columbus.  At the University of Oregon, activists knocked down The Pioneer statue – whose dedication in 1919 was heralded with a speech honoring the Anglo-Saxon race – along with The Pioneer Mother statue. Neither has emerged from storage since.

Oregon experienced its worst wildfires in state history in 2020. More than a million acres and 4,000 residences were burned, with thick smog blanketing the region.

At the Graduate Hotel in Eugene, evacuee Shelby Todd recalled her escape from the Holiday Farm Fire. It ravaged the McKenzie River Corridor in September.  Todd said she fled with just one change of clothes.

“Not even socks or underwear or toiletries. And the Red Cross and people in the community donating, we have been able to acquire the things for daily living that people need.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continued to climb everywhere, limiting holiday activities as well as political campaigning. Come Election Day, longtime Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio beat back one of his heaviest challengers yet, Republican Alek Skarlatos. Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley handily won re-election, while President Trump called for voting to stop in the late hours of Election Night...

Trump: “Frankly, we did win this election…” (CHEERS)

…only to see Joe Biden declared winner days later after the former Vice President secured more than 270 Electoral College votes.  Biden and running mate Kamala Harris celebrated on-stage in Wilmington, Delaware…

Biden: “We won with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of the nation. 74 million!” (HONKS, CHEERS)

Meanwhile, Trump and his allies baselessly claimed election fraud, leading to “Stop the Steal” rallies. A recent one in Salem turned violent, with protesters kicking in the doors to the Statehouse.

Noted writer Barry Lopez died on Christmas Day. He was a prolific writer of natural history, and won the National Book Award in 1986 for “Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape.”

“I don’t write quickly, and I don’t think very quickly," he explained of his craft on OPB's Think Out Loud program.  "I watch for things that most of us ignore.  Not to put myself in a superior position but I’m after what’s deep which comes up out of a scene and winks at you every once in a while.”

Lopez was born in New York, but lived in Oregon since 1968. He struggled with prostate cancer in his final years.  He was 75.

2020 does have some rays of sunshine: several approved COVID-19 vaccines are now being administered across the U.S. and Oregon. And in sports…

Announcer: “Back to back Pac-12 championships for the Ducks!  And now 4 in all-time impact 12 championship games…”

…the Oregon Ducks are bound for the Fiesta Bowl, where they’ll face the Iowa State Cyclones January 2nd.

Whatever the next year brings, KLCC will be there to cover it. We thank you for being a dedicated listener and supporter.  May 2021 bring you prosperity, and cause to celebrate.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.
 

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