2020 in the rearview mirror: A year like no other

Never have so many been so glad to see a year end, and so unable to celebrate its departure…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

It’s hard to remember now, but in the year of 2020 BC (Before COVID), a world-class level disaster was already unfolding. Even by mid-January a massive fire (actually a set of fires) was racking Australia https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/australia-bushfires-size-impact-wildlife-emissions/ – and was by then twice the size of Belgium.

The fire season was yet to hit California (and Arizona and Colorado and Oregon and…). Every location seemed to have vastly worse fires than ever before.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of buildings were lost, many thousands of acres of (mostly federal) lands were devastated as well as many suburban, if not urban areas.

The fire season in Southern California lasted from at minimum, March to November. And fires were still not fully contained by the end of December.

Equally, ahem, “hot” was the Super Bowl half-time show (https://time.com/5774180/super-bowl-2020-halftime-show-recap/) with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

President Trump was impeached. But in the flow of larger news stories, that news was buried.

We saw the reframing, if not rehabilitation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben –https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-06-17/aunt-jemima-uncle-bens-racism – and the Native logo on Land o’ Lakes butter packaging (https://www.today.com/food/land-o-lakes-drops-controversial-native-american-logo-butter-products-t179154).

The departure of Great Britain from the European Union (aka Brexit) became final on the last day of 2020.

Terms to know from 2020 – and yes, they will be on the test

BLM (Black Lives Matter)

Black swans

Cancel Culture

CHAZ (Capital Hill Autonomous Zone)


Deep state

Defund the police

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many more

I can’t breathe

Murder hornets

PPP (Paycheck Protection Program)

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Social Distancing


WFH (Work From Home)


And, both bane and savior technology of 2020; Zoom

And in America’s urban centers

Urban/racial tensions gave us (in Seattle) CHAZ/CHOP (Capital Hill Occupied Zone) and calls to Defund the police.

Seattle’s (black) police chief resigned.

All over Tacoma, BLM (Black Lives Matter) signs sprouted up all over in windows and on yard signs.

Tacoma had its own version of racially-tinged police reaction in the death of Manuel Ellis.

The election

Bernie Sanders held a massive rally at the Tacoma Dome on President’s Day.

Our electoral process had the ultimate “stress test” with both a contentious election and contested results.

Even though Joe Biden won both the popular vote and the electoral college, lawsuits and wild rumors prevailed.

Lawsuits and challenging actions are expected to continue until January 20th.

Everything from recounts to threats of civil war seem to be part of our 2020 political vocabulary.

Even in Washington, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost by quite a large margin, has refused to concede and is expected to challenge the election until the swearing in.

In Seattle, Mayor Durkan announced that she will not run for re-election.

Murder Hornets

What would 2020 be without murder hornets? At two inches long, these hornets don’t only harm, even kill humans, but they destroy bee hives which impacts pollination, which directly affects agriculture. Over 200 murder hornet queens were found in Whatcom County.

Working from home

Many workers went on furlough for the middle portion of the year, about half of us shifted to working from home.

Or from anywhere

Suddenly any public space became a temporary (or even not-so-temporary) workspace.

Weather permitting, parks became offices. Coffee shops or outdoor eating areas became impromptu working spaces.

Some even took to travel or adventures while “working.” Cayman Islands, anyone? (https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/work-remotely-for-up-to-2-years-in-the-cayman-islands-with-their-new-wfh-program/ar-BB1aipAB)

Or nowhere

Unemployment reached, and then exceeded, the rates at the peak of the Great Depression. https://www.thebalance.com/current-u-s-unemployment-rate-statistics-and-news-3305733

Homelessness, unemployment and retail and business vacancy rates are all at record highs.

Weekly national unemployment claims averaged nearly a million claims a week from March to December – the highest, by far, of any time in US history.

Entire industries are on the ropes – especially hotels, hospitality and entertainment. Shopping malls are expected to shut down in increasing rates in the next several months.

The traditional “anchor stores” Macy’s, Penney’s and a few others are in the biggest trouble. If you can bear it, and want to see who is likely to disappear from the retail landscape, look here: https://moneywise.com/a/chains-closing-the-most-stores-in-2020.

These closed stores represent many thousands of jobs.

America’s shopping malls have a future as being sites of ultimate creative re-use. Some will become Amazon fulfillment centers, others may become schools or sites for creativity or business incubators.

School Daze

There was certainly never a year when the term “school daze” was more appropriate. Online schools, video-meetings, home-schooling and some crazy, patchwork combination defined the school experience for parents, teachers and, of course, students.

School abruptly stopped across America, and much of the world, in March, sputtered toward summer, took a breather during summer, and in theory at least, prepared for the new school year.

By the time September rolled around, school districts (and colleges) were prepared. Except that they weren’t. School was a rolling, confusing mess in September.

And it wasn’t much better in December.

For better or worse, many school districts (and parents) are basically just writing off the school year.

Some kids love being at home instead of school, others are border-line traumatized.

The new school year, ’21-22, will, even if COVID is not an issue, be a year of difficulty and transition like no other.

Dinner and a movie? Not in 2020

Over 40% of eating establishments were expected to close – permanently – nationwide – by the end of 2020.

Movie theaters, and performance venues of all kinds, stood almost entirely empty for most of the year.


The letter Q must have been taking courses in alphabet equity and was demanding – and acquiring – equal access and headline publicity in 2020.

There were two “Q” words that dominated the headlines in 2020; Quarantine and Qanon.

Oddly enough, one of these two is real and the other is entirely fanciful.

Thanks to the level of derangement in the atmosphere in 2020, there was a high level of disagreement over which was which. Spoiler alert – the quarantine was the real one.

Who is that masked man?

It has been several months, but I still find it jarring to see nearly everyone out in public wearing a face mask.

With winter here, people are bundled up, and with faces covered, everyone looks indistinguishable.

In a public place you might be in line with someone you know, but you might not be able to recognize them.

That might be a good metaphor for 2020 – everything is covered up, but what we know is under there somewhere.

Many Black Swans Aswimming

The term “Black swan” refers to unexpected catastrophes; usually not just one, but an event with a multiplier effect. COVID itself was not a Black swan, since so many had projected it and before 2019 we had a dedicated pandemic response force in the USA, but the repercussions, from retail closures to supply chain foul-ups were unnecessary and unexpected – and because of that, far more difficult.

Meanwhile, at Mount Rainier

Two creatures, long absent from Mt. Rainier National Park have been recorded or re-introduced; wolverines and fishers.

Wolverines, of course are well known, thanks to recent films.

Fishers, once common, were hunted into extinction in Washington, are the only animal able to be a predator of porcupines.


And in real estate news only 2020 could give us, Spanaway was deemed the most competitive city in the nation for buying a home.

Auld Lang Syne

In short, every aspect of life after 2020 is unrecognizable from every year before.

This was a year essentially without holidays, or at least without the gatherings that defined them.

Even weddings and funerals were delayed or deferred – some even canceled or conducted, in some way, online.

2020 was a year without shame or decency, one most of us will deny knowing or participating in.

Is this going to be on the test?

Before you close the door to 2020, you might take this quiz to see how many of the “highlights” of the year you remember – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/dec/26/frankie-boyle-big-quiz-of-2020-how-much-have-you-subconsciously-tried-to-suppress?

And for a test of your business acumen, try your luck with this Britain-centric business test – https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/dec/11/guardian-business-christmas-quiz-2020


COVID infected millions around the world. Including our president, who received world-class and experimental treatments, quickly recovered and then dismissed the disease – even as US infection rates approached, and then surpassed 4,000 on a daily basis. Total cases surpassed 20 million. And 350,000 deaths.

And forget about murder hornets, 2020 gave us dog-sized carnivorous lizards. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ny-dog-sized-lizards-southeast-us-20201124-syq2oactuzdaja2avmrccsiayq-story.html

In the end, 2020 left as it began; never have so many been so glad to see a year end, and so unable to celebrate its departure.

Few of us have a New Year’ Eve party to clean up after; we have the full year to clean up after.