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Year in Review: The defining faces, places & stories we’ll remember from 2021

A penguin at Woodland Park Zoo; Massive Monkees performs breakdance moves; Minoru Yamasaki; Stephanie Anne Johnson.

It’s been another history-making, record-breaking, earth-shaking year here in the Emerald City. It feels like just yesterday we shared our 2020 time capsule blog with you all, and we can’t quite believe it’s time to do it all again! We’ve gathered our most important – and most loved stories – of the year all in one round-up to reflect on Seattle’s biggest challenges and greatest accomplishments, and use all we’ve learned this year to make the city an even better place for us all.

This story gave us wings (and claws, beaks, really cute snouts)

Four-legged, flippered, or feathered, every senior citizen at Woodland Park Zoo gets fin-omenal care. Rabbits reset with acupuncture, penguins pep up after physical therapy, and orangutans swing through ADA-compliant habitats thanks to treatments and innovations often used on humans! We revisit this CityStream story regularly for instructions on how we can age with style.

Massive Monkees taught us some sweet moves

World champion breakdance crew Massive Monkees lost their Chinatown International District studio in the midst of the pandemic, but this summer they found a new dance floor: Jefferson Park. Seattle Parks and Recreation awarded them a Welcome Back Seattle grant to teach free lessons to anyone and everyone, and uplift the community with hip hop culture.

Locally grown fiction swept the Seattle literary scene

Author Daniel James Brown of “The Boys in the Boat” fame joined Book Lust host Nancy Pearl to discuss his latest work: “Facing the Mountain – A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II.” The book follows four Japanese American families during World War II. Brown says his inspiration came from conversations with Tom Ikeda of Densho, the Seattle-based nonprofit that collects oral histories of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.

We met the Seattleite who designed the World Trade Center

Did you know a Garfield High School and University of Washington graduate designed the World Trade Center? It’s true! Seattle native Minoru Yamasaki’s most famous work may have been in New York, but he also gave his hometown the United States Science Pavilion for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Rainier Tower, and more! Round of applause, please.

New light rail stations Link Seattle neighborhoods

Have you traveled the 4.3 miles of new Link light rail zipping through the north part of the city? New stations at Northgate, Roosevelt, and U District put Sound Transit on track to triple the length of the region’s light rail system to 62 miles by 2024, and allow Seattlites to commute and explore the city more quickly, cheaply, and with a lower environmental impact.

Local artist refused to let racism win

Sound Transit commissioned artist Lauren Iida to create a 120-foot temporary mural for the Federal Way Link Extension, but vandals quickly slashed through the faces she artistically created of her Japanese American relatives who were incarcerated during World War II. Rather than let the mural deteriorate or replace it without comment, Iida drew attention to the damage, and transformed using a technique inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which Iida says takes a broken thing, accepts it, and makes it into something new.

Phnom Penh Noodle House made a joyful (and delicious) return

Phnom Penh Noodle House founder Sam Ung survived the killing fields of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime before escaping to the United States. He turned the local institution over to his daughters in 2013, but after a family tragedy struck five years later, the restaurant closed, but their story wasn’t over. The restaurant was so deeply missed that patrons and the city rallied to bring it back during the pandemic. If that’s not love, we don’t know what is.

Stephanie Anne Johnson & The Hidogs gave us something to sing about

Do you ever hear a number that puts you straight into your feels? Stephanie Anne Johnson & The Hidogs performance of “Never No More” on Art Zone with Nancy Guppy does just that. The band’s soulful sound is blowing up in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. If you haven’t already, click the link to see (hear?) why.

We set up the nation’s largest civilian-led vaccination site

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for emergency use for adults almost exactly one year ago today, on Dec. 11, 2020. Three months later, on March 10, 2021, Seattle opened the largest civilian-led mass vaccination site in the country. The Lumen Field event marked a major turning point in the pandemic and a relief to individuals and our healthcare system. Governor Jay Inslee would later announce that most Washington state employees, on-site contractors, and volunteers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue working.

State and city leadership extended the eviction moratorium

“If it wasn’t for the eviction moratorium, I would have been homeless.” In mid-March, Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle leaders extended the eviction moratorium through the end of June. While the extension was a weight off the shoulders of many renters, it posed questions about support for landlords who were also struggling and the future of homelessness in the region.

Six out of 10 Washington state congress members are women

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, and Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the New Democrat Coalition, joined Civic Cocktail host Joni Balter for a discussion about the efforts at the federal level to address the needs of the American public. We also learned that six out of 10 of our state’s congress members are women, half of those six are women of color, and the Democratic Party is encouraging even more to run for office.

We tried to chill

This summer brought a sweltering reminder of our climate crisis, and folks across the Northwest did their best to beat the heat. Seattle experienced its hottest day in recorded history on June 28 when temperatures reached 108 degrees, one of three consecutive 100+ degree days. Before that week, the city had only had three triple-digit days ever. Parts of Oregon and Washington broke their own records, reaching nearly 120, and raising questions about how to protect our most vulnerable neighbors and alter infrastructure to meet a changing climate.

We voted our way through a crazy political year

Civic-minded Seattlites (here’s looking at you) didn’t just make tough decisions when it came to top local positions in the General Election, some also had a say in the first-ever recall vote of a city council member in Seattle’s history. Voters chose former Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell as mayor and decided whether to recall councilmember Kshama Sawant in early December.