Photos from 2020: Looking back on a year that changed our world

Protesters head for the Philadelphia art museum on May 30, 2020, to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

2020 was not a typical year for anyone in the region. Here’s a view from WHYY photographers on how the last 12 months unfolded in real-time.

Hundreds of New Jerseyans began 2020 with a bracing dip in the frigid Atlantic Ocean. Participants described the polar bear plunge, a longstanding tradition in shore communities, as an exhilarating start to the new year.

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Participants of the 2020 polar bear plunge in Margate, N.J., run to the ocean on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. (Miguel Martinez for WHYY)
Participants of the 2020 polar bear plunge in Margate, N.J., run to the ocean on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. (Miguel Martinez for WHYY)

In January, the presidential primary came to the Philadelphia area. The organization Black Voices for Trump held a meeting at a church in Sharswood. Donald Trump drew thousands to a rally in Wildwood, Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg parachuted into the race with a rally at the National Constitution Center, where supporters expressed the belief that he was the only candidate who could beat Trump.

 

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Republicans chanted ''four more years,'' after a Black Voices for Trump roundtable at the First Immanuel Baptist Church in Sharswood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Republicans chanted ''four more years,'' after a Black Voices for Trump roundtable at the First Immanuel Baptist Church in Sharswood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Helena Mantovani (center) of Chester County makes it to her fourth Trump rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Helena Mantovani (center) of Chester County makes it to her fourth Trump rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg arrives to a cheering crowd at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg arrives to a cheering crowd at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

On Jan. 26, hometown hero Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. The basketball star was born in Philadelphia and started his basketball career at Lower Merion High School.

 

A memorial for late basketball superstar Kobe Bryant grows outside the Lower Merion high school gymnasium named for him. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
A memorial for late basketball superstar Kobe Bryant grows outside the Lower Merion high school gymnasium named for him. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In February, Danielle Outlaw made history becoming Philadelphia’s first Black female police commissioner.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s new commissioner Danielle Outlaw did sit-down interviews with the press for the first time in February 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

She joined an impressive roster of Black women in law enforcement in Philadelphia.

Sheriff Rochelle Bilal is the first woman and African American elected to the office. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In March, advocates for a supervised injection site in Philadelphia pushed back against a City Council bill that would effectively prevent it. The issue was sidelined as the coronavirus pandemic reached the Philadelphia area.

Shannon Farrell, (center) president of the Harrowgate Civic Association, testifies at a hearing on safe injections sites in Philadelphia at City Council Monday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Shannon Farrell, (center) president of the Harrowgate Civic Association, testifies at a hearing on safe injections sites in Philadelphia at City Council Monday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Coronavirus pandemic hits the region

Health officials told residents to stay home except for essential business. Restaurants, stores, and schools were shuttered.

Those engaged in essential activities were urged to wear masks and physically distance themselves from others.

City streets were deserted.

The streets of Center City Philadelphia are deserted after a shut-down is put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Wilmington resident Keona Berry walks down Market Street with a protective mask on her face on Friday, March 27, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)
Nurses with Christian Care test people for the coronavirus in a drive-through area at the Riverfront complex in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, March 13, 2020. The tests were free. (Butch Comegys for WHYY)

Drive-thru testing sites were opened, including one at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Hundreds of cars lined up around the sports complex.

Cars line up at a drive-through coronavirus testing station in the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Cars line up at a drive-through coronavirus testing station in the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With schools closed, thousands of children in Philadelphia who relied on their schools for two meals a day were at risk. The city hastily arranged a distribution network.

Daaiyah Boone hands out bagged meals to students at Tilden Middle School during the coronavirus shutdown. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Although deemed an essential business, WHYY arranged for most of its employees to work from home. Hosts of popular radio shows like Fresh Air with Terry Gross created home studios.

WHYY hosts (clockwise from top left) Terry Gross, Marty Moss-Coane, Shai Ben-Yaacov, Annette John-Hall and Maiken Scott, find ways to stay on the air during the pandemic. (Provided by WHYY staff)

Reporters learned to conduct interviews through masks and use 6-foot booms to maintain safe distances.

To soften the isolation of lockdown, Philly parents set up a rainbow hunt.

Bowie Moon Porter drew this rainbow for other kids on the rainbow hunt through Fishtown. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Bowie Moon Porter drew this rainbow for other kids on the rainbow hunt through Fishtown. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philly set up public handwashing stations accompanied by art that encouraged mask-wearing and physical distancing among people experiencing homelessness.

A mural created by artist Nile Livingston was installed at 17th and Vine streets along with a public hand washing station meant for people who are living with housing instability. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

With venues closed and large public gatherings prohibited, performing artists looked for creative ways to continue working.

University of the Arts seniors Andrew Malabunga (right) and Miranda Pilato (left) rehearse on the 7th floor of the under-construction Arthaus Condominiums for their Opera on the Avenue performance on Sept. 16, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
University of the Arts seniors Andrew Malabunga (right) and Miranda Pilato (left) rehearse on the 7th floor of the under-construction Arthaus Condominiums for their Opera on the Avenue performance on Sept. 16, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In April, anticipating a surge of COVID-19 patients, Philadelphia converted Temple University’s Liacouras Center into an emergency overflow hospital.

Temple University’s Liacouras Center opens with 180 beds to accommodate an overflow of COVID-19 patients in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Temple University’s Liacouras Center opens with 180 beds to accommodate an overflow of COVID-19 patients in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Dr. Ala Sanford of the Black Doctors Consortium began offering free COVID-19 tests in predominantly Black communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.

Dr. Ala Stanford founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to respond to the needs of Black communities during the pandemic. (Christopher Norris/WHYY)
A doctor performs a free COVID-19 test in the parking lot of the West Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church. (Christopher Norris/WHYY)
A doctor performs a free COVID-19 test in the parking lot of the West Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church. (Christopher Norris/WHYY)

Restrictions on public gatherings limited funeral services to outdoor gatherings with no more than 10 people, even as the death toll mounted.

Funeral director Kurt Larsen stands in the empty chapel at Volk Leber Funeral Home in Teaneck, N.J. The chapel hasn't been used since limits on social gatherings went into effect for the region. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Funeral director Kurt Larsen stands in the empty chapel at Volk Leber Funeral Home in Teaneck, N.J. The chapel hasn't been used since limits on social gatherings went into effect for the region. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Two sisters, both nurses, struggled to find a fitting way to say goodbye to their father. Although he died of COVID-19 at the hospital where they worked, they were not allowed to visit him.

Tammy King (left) is comforted by her sister Michelle Rouco, both nurses, who were not allowed to see their father before he succumbed to COVID-19. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Tammy King (left) is comforted by her sister Michelle Rouco, both nurses, who were not allowed to see their father before he succumbed to COVID-19. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

New Jersey shore towns opened to tourists on Memorial Day, but few came. Seasonal businesses struggled to survive.

With motels closed Memorial Day weekend, Wildwood was tame compared to most years past. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
With motels closed Memorial Day weekend, Wildwood was tame compared to most years past. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Class of 2020

The class of 2020 finished the year with virtual teaching. High school graduations couldn’t be held under pandemic restrictions.

Pottstown students graduated one at a time before an audience of lawn signs representing their classmates. The ceremony took six days.

Pottstown High School seniors graduate one at a time before an audience of lawn signs representing their classmates. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Camden high school students celebrated with a parade.

At Farnham Park on June 26, Camden High graduate Zanabria Harris, 18, stands in a sea of confetti at the end of the parade. (April Saul for WHYY)
At Farnham Park on June 26, Camden High graduate Zanabria Harris, 18, stands in a sea of confetti at the end of the parade. (April Saul for WHYY)

Racial reckoning

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25 sparked protests in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs that continued for weeks.

Protesters took over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in June 2020 to hear speakers from the Philly Socialists, who along with demanding an end to police brutality and justice for George Floyd, called for fair housing, funding for libraries, and health care for all. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Protesters took over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in June 2020 to hear speakers from the Philly Socialists, who along with demanding an end to police brutality and justice for George Floyd, called for fair housing, funding for libraries, and health care for all. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Police cars burn in front of City Hall on May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Police cars burn in front of City Hall on May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Police came under fire for using tear gas on peaceful protesters and residents.

Police arrest dozens of protesters after they blocked traffic on the Vine Street Expressway on June 1, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Police arrest dozens of protesters after they blocked traffic on the Vine Street Expressway on June 1, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Protesters help each other after being tear gassed on the Ben Franklin Parkway, June 1, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Protesters help each other after being tear gassed on the Ben Franklin Parkway, June 1, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Protesters attempted to take down the statue of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo, which had become a symbol of police brutality and racism. That statue was later removed from the steps of the Municipal Services Building in Center City.

Protesters try to take down the statue of former mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building on May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Protesters try to take down the statue of former mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building on May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Attention then turned to the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia. Protectors of the statue, some armed with guns, stood guard and sometimes clashed violently with protesters who saw it as a symbol of colonial atrocities.

A group of armed people guard a statue of Christopher Columbus located in Marconi Plaza on South Broad Street. These men said they believed that Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA protesters were on their way to destroy the statue. (Courtesy of Ryan Collerd)

The statue was concealed under a large wooden box and the city held hearings to determine its fate.

Workers box up the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza
Workers box up the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In June, dozens of people experiencing homelessness and their supporters set up camp on Von Colln Field on the Ben Franklin Parkway, using the highly visible location to protest the city’s policies toward people experiencing housing insecurity. The protest continued into October when the camp was dismantled after the city agreed to demands for permanent housing.

Tanya Lilly has been homeless since October. 'I'm so tired,' she said. 'This is not the way I want to live, but it's better than sleeping on the cement.' (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Tanya Lilly has been homeless since October. 'I'm so tired,' she said. 'This is not the way I want to live, but it's better than sleeping on the cement.' (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Anthony Lloyd, a resident of the homeless encampment on the Ben Franklin Parkway challenges the city’s order to clear the camp. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Anthony Lloyd, a resident of the homeless encampment on the Ben Franklin Parkway challenges the city’s order to clear the camp. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Election 2020 preparations

As Election Day neared, get-out-the-vote efforts created a festive atmosphere with performances and public art.

Alexandra González’s pop-up To the Polls mural in progress at Love Park in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Cirque d'Vote performers make their way down North Broad Street toward the Liacouras Center, where their aim is to cheer the voters standing in line there. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Cirque d'Vote performers make their way down North Broad Street toward the Liacouras Center, where their aim is to cheer the voters standing in line there. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Vote-by-mail provisions were made, but many chose to stand in long lines at voting centers to personally deliver their ballots.

Voters line up at City Hall in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Voters line up at Philadelphia City Hall to drop off their mail in ballots. The line stretched out the south gate and around the corner. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Voters line up at Philadelphia City Hall to drop off their mail in ballots. The line stretched out the south gate and around the corner. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Walter Wallace Jr.

On Oct. 26, two Philadelphia police officers shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr. outside his home in West Philadelphia. The streets of Philadelphia were once again filled with protesters.

Dominique Wallace (center) leaves the funeral of her late husband, Walter Wallace Jr. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Protesters march from the scene of Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing to Malcolm X Park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Protesters march from the scene of Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing to Malcolm X Park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Yhané Ndgo leads protesters in chanting Walter Wallace’s name at City Hall after the city of Philadelphia released body cam footage of the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Yhané Ndgo leads protesters in chanting Walter Wallace’s name at City Hall after the city of Philadelphia released body cam footage of the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Election Day

A record number of mail ballots were cast in the 2020 election, and some districts took a week or more to count them all.

Chester Country election workers check ballots one last time before sending them to be scanned and counted in the West Chester University gym on Nov. 3, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With the outcome of the presidential race in question, Philadelphia became a focal point. Dueling protests sprang up outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being counted, and continued for days.

At 12th and Arch streets in Philadelphia, protesters from both sides were separated by a line of police. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
At 12th and Arch streets in Philadelphia, protesters from both sides were separated by a line of police. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Celebrations exploded across the city on Saturday, Nov. 7, when major news organizations called the race for Joe Biden. Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent elected as vice president of the United States.

Demonstrators march through Center City Philadelphia to celebrate a Biden win. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Demonstrators march through Center City Philadelphia to celebrate a Biden win. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
President-elect Joe Biden celebrates after major news organizations call the 2020 presidential race in his favor Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, at the Riverfront in Wilmington Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)
President-elect Joe Biden celebrates after major news organizations call the 2020 presidential race in his favor Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, at the Riverfront in Wilmington Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at the Riverfront in Wilmington, Del., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, prior to President-elect Joe Biden's remarks. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at the Riverfront in Wilmington, Del., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, prior to President-elect Joe Biden's remarks. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

On Nov. 22, the shooting death of 12-year-old Sadeek Clark-Harrison brought Philadelphia’s homicide total to 440, the highest since the 1990s.

Sadeek Clark-Harrison’s mother, Lisa Clark, cries out in grief at a vigil for her 12-year-old son who was shot in their home in Frankford. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Photos of 12-year-old Sadeek Clark-Harrison and candles honor his life on his porch in Frankford. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Photos of 12-year-old Sadeek Clark-Harrison and candles honor his life on his porch in Frankford. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

COVID-19 vaccines arrive

The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrives in Philadelphia in mid-December. Dr. Ala Stanford, of the Black Doctors Consortium, is among the first to be vaccinated, publicly demonstrating her confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Dr. Ala Stanford gets her COVID-19 vaccination at a Philadelphia Department of Health clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Dr. Ala Stanford gets her COVID-19 vaccination at a Philadelphia Department of Health clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Winter holidays and COVID

With widespread vaccination still months away, Philadelphians found new ways to celebrate holiday traditions. West Philly synagogue Kol Tzedek held a virtual Hanukkah party. Taller Puertorriqueño’s parranda celebration, a gathering of friends who move through a neighborhood with musical instruments, singing traditional songs well into the night, was held online.

Philadelphia’s Christmas Village opened with a socially distanced layout, reduced vendor capacity, and new safety protocols.

Patricia Walter (left), Patrick Walter-Hutter, and Marcia Hutter enjoy some German food at the Christmas Village food court, which is being kept separate from gift vendors as a COVID-19 mitigation effort. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)
Patricia Walter (left), Patrick Walter-Hutter, and Marcia Hutter enjoy some German food at the Christmas Village food court, which is being kept separate from gift vendors as a COVID-19 mitigation effort. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)

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