It's sort of odd when you think about it. But the top five stories of this year, nationally and internationally, dealt with tragedy, war, and disaster. Locally, though, the top five stories dealt with economic development and a bank robber who just didn't quite pull it off.
It doesn't seem like a whole year since the tsunami hit Thailand and Indonesia, but it has indeed been that long since the monster waves hit. The world stood in shock and awe, and for a rather long time, people's humanity took over.
While the tsunami actually occurred in 2004, it was the major world disaster of 2005 as well, given the effects of the aftermath.
So if the tsunami was one of the year's biggest stories, what would the others be?
Certainly, Hurricane Katrina would have to rank up there. While the tsunami was certainly larger, Katrina was quite literally in our backyard in the United States. And we'll be paying for that for years to come.
Another big story this year is the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the hunt goes on for Osama bin Laden, Americans are pretty much agreed that the war in Afghanistan is a just war.
Feelings about the war on Iraq do not seem to be quite so unanimous, however. I think the important thing to remember, though, is that whether or not the war in Iraq started out as a war against terror, it has become just exactly that. Terrorists are sending their forces in to try to discourage Iraqis from determining their own destiny. Fortunately, the Iraqis are figuring that out, and they're taking control of their own country.
The economy is also a big story, not just for itself, but in the way that it has been impacted both by Hurricane Katrina and the war on terror. The strange thing about the news reports on the economy is that they vary depending on from whose perspective you're hearing about it. Some companies, particularly petroleum companies, are reporting record profits. Other companies, notably the airlines, are declaring bankruptcy. This major story has yet to shake itself out.
The status of social programs is a big story. Again, we don't know how this one will turn out. In order to help pay for other items in the federal budget, we're having to cut funding from some of the most fundamental programs upon which America has relied for decades. Hopefully, our lawmakers will pay attention to the long-term impact on America's social fabric.
There were some pretty big local stories as well. The most obvious, of course, all have to do with economic development.
Having received a nod from Vision Iowa in December 2004, Project AWAYSIS was underway early this year. We can see for ourselves the earthwork going on along East Lakeshore Drive, and it doesn't take too much imagination to realize what it could look like two short years from now.
The Albert City ethanol plant is another big shot in the arm for our area. With any luck, the plant should be producing within the next year.
Wind farm expansion continues to be a big economic development story. It's not over yet, with more windmills coming to both the Intrepid site as well as the site in Wright and Hamilton Counties.
The Raccoon Valley Biodiesel plant announcement comes at a very opportune time as renewable energy and value-added agriculture join hands to put Buena Vista County on the map.
Another big story this year was when James Magoon tried to hold up Citizens 1st National Bank. As luck would have it, Mr. Magoon didn't pull off the job, and he'll be spending some time away for a while.
The good news about the Magoon story, of course, is that he was caught. He probably wouldn't totally agree with that assessment, though.
Mike Tidemann is assistant editor of the Pilot-Tribune. You can E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org