The world came back to a new kind of life in 2021. We returned to some things we love — to the theater, to the gym, to work, and to school — albeit with new protocols and risk calculations.
But the recovery has been slow, and while grappling with an ongoing pandemic, the Philadelphia area faced catastrophic flooding and tornadoes, and a rampant gun violence epidemic.
Here’s a view from WHYY News photographers of how the last 12 months unfolded in real time.
The race to vaccinate
The year began with a massive effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. To get things started, Philadelphia turned to a student-led startup. Philly Fighting COVID launched an ambitious mass vaccination clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but that effort soon crumbled when the city cut ties with the group, and resulted in the resignation of Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Caroline Johnson.
Another effort, by Dr. Ala Stanford and the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, brought vaccines and testing to underserved communities in Philadelphia hit hard by the virus.
Stanford went on to found the Center for Health Equity in North Philadelphia, with a new mission to deliver primary care and behavioral health services.
Meanwhile, a Philadelphia activist staged a hunger strike outside City Hall, urging leaders to do more to confront the gun violence crisis and treat it with the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic.
A glorious summer
With mass vaccination under way and infection rates dropping, thousands gathered on Benjamin Franklin Parkway to watch the Fourth of July fireworks.
Trenton native Athing Mu raced to Olympic gold in Tokyo, while hometown fans cheered her on half a world away.
And at a camp in rural Chester County, young music students got a chance to play together for the first time in months, courtesy of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
And then came the storm
In September, the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the Philadelphia region, spawning tornadoes and causing catastrophic flooding along the Schuylkill River.
Some notable goodbyes
In 2021, we said goodbye to John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, which graduated its final class on June 7.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley resigned due to his involvement in the mishandling and desecration of remains of the victims of the 1985 MOVE bombing.
Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite announced he would not renew his contract after 10 years with the district.
Soccer superstar Carli Lloyd, a native of Delran, retired from the sport at 39 with a big party thrown by her hometown in South Jersey.
Union leader John Dougherty stepped down from his post at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 after being convicted on federal conspiracy and fraud charges.
Belmont Plateau’s iconic sugar maple tree was cut down for safety reasons.
Saturdays just got more interesting.