Plenty of genuinely heart-warming events took place in 2015, but there were also those times during the year when the world was forced to take a deep breath and look on in shock.
As awful as some of these events were, they have lead to some truly awesome shows of human spirit and togetherness.
The year started with the chilling news of an attack at the Paris-based satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. On January 7 two gunmen forced their way into the offices of the magazine armed with assault rifles and proceeded to kill 12 people and injure 11 others. Following a two day long manhunt the gunmen were eventually cornered and killed in a shoot-out with police. On January 11, about two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, gathered in Paris for a rally of national unity. The phrase ‘Je suis Charlie’ became a slogan of support for those affected by the killings. The following issue of Charlie Hebdo ran 7.95 million copies in six languages, in contrast to its normal run of 60,000 in only French.
On March 24 the deliberate downing of Germanwings flight 9525 by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz killed all 144 passengers and six crew members on board. Lubitz had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies and been declared unfit to work by a doctor, however he had kept this information to himself. During the flight, he locked the pilot out of the cockpit before deliberately crashing the aircraft into a mountain in the French Alps. In response to the incident the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a temporary recommendation for airlines to ensure at least two crew members—including at least one pilot—are in the cockpit during the entire duration of the flight.
In April the world looked on horrified as footage emerged of the devastation caused by an enormous earthquake in Nepal. In the end it killed over 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000, registering a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale. It was the worst earthquake to hit the region since 1934, triggering an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least 19 people and causing an huge landslide in the Langtang valley, flattening entire villages and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless. A major aftershock occurred on May 12 which added to the devastation killing a further 200 and injuring 2,500 people. In response to the crisis, appeals have raised hundreds of millions of pounds for those in need.
Residents of the UK awoke on May 9 to find we had a lovely new government. No, Ed Miliband hadn’t recovered from the whole bacon sandwich thing to take the polls by storm, it was old D-Cam’s Conservative Party who had breezed to victory in the general election – sealing an outright majority in the process. A downbeat Miliband resigned the day after the election as did former Cameron whipping-boy and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, after his Liberal Democrats took a hell of a beating, securing only eight seats.
After years of building evidence, May saw fourteen people either working for, or with prominent links to FIFA arrested on charges of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. High profile casualties of the investigation – which has centred around a number of enormous payments made to people within the FIFA hierarchy regarding both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups – include the outgoing President of FIFA Sepp Blatter, former Vice-President Jack Warner and UEFA chief Michel Platini. We can only hope that what we are left with is a collection of people who are involved for the good of football rather than themselves. Hmm, wouldn’t count on it.
The plight of refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East and North Africa was brought sharply into focus when five boats carrying almost two thousand migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people. The European Union has struggled to cope with the crisis, with countries being forced to close borders and restrict the movement of the migrants. At first, public opinion seemed stacked against the refugees, however in September the body of a young Syrian boy who had drowned trying to reach Greece washed up on a beach in Turkey. Dozens of major newspapers ran photographs of the boy’s body and in an overwhelming response, hundreds of thousands of people donated clothing, money and basic supplies to help the refugees.
For the second time in a year Paris was hit by devastation when, on the evening of Friday 13 November, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in the French capital. Targeted bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and most devastatingly, the Bataclan theatre where 89 people attending a concert by American rock band Eagles Of Death Metal were murdered tore through the capital. The attacks, claimed by The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), left 130 people dead making them the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004. French President, François Hollande, labelled the attacks ‘an act of war’ and in response stepped up France’s involvement in the anti-ISIL bombing campaign. On 18 November, the suspected lead operative of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a police raid in Saint-Denis.