We entered 2002 cautiously, still trying to grasp the enormity of what happened on September 11, 2001. Now, more than a year has passed since the terrorist attacks, and unlike 2001, this year's headlines were not dominated by one cataclysmic event, but rather a number of important people, places, issues, events and scandals.
The past 12 months have definitely been eventful. Starting with the outbreak of a deadly virus, carried by an insect smaller than a fly. Then, there was the arrival of an ancient art exhibit, something that had never been on display outside of Rome. The year ended with the from out of nowhere resignation of Lubbock's Senior U.S. Congressman. Here's a look back at the top ten stories of the year, voted on by the KCBD staff.
Congressman Larry Combest's Resignation- In November, the 57-year-old Republican announced he was stepping down after two decades of representing West Texas in Washington. The chairman of the house ag committee says events that happened to both he and his wife the past year caused them to rethink priorities. Combest's last day will be May 31st. So far, 10 candidates have announced their intentions to pursue his seat.
Tornado Devastates Happy, Tx.-"All of the sudden it just got deathly quiet." It was classified as an F-2. Not the most powerful tornado, but still capable of devastating destruction. The May 5th twister tore through the small Panhandle town of Happy, damaging 45 homes and killing two. Rebuilding didn't come easy. The town's largest church completely burned down two weeks after the tornado when a construction worker caught some insulation on fire with a torch. The church should be open by Easter.
West Nile Virus Outbreak-West Texans learned the importance of the word DEET this past summer. Experts told us DEET was the most effective chemical in mosquito repellents. Sound advice given the outbreak of the mosquito borne West Nile Virus in 2002. The virus preyed on older adults, children and livestock. It was detected in 44 states this year. In West Texas the virus killed an Amarillo man and 30 horses in Lubbock County. Health officials say it's unclear how widespread the problem will be next summer, but it will be back.
Murder at an ATM- On august 14th, Texas Tech student Colin Schafer was shot to death after being followed home by his alleged killers. He was then forced to drive to an ATM where he withdrew $300 for the suspects. Less than 10 days after the crime police nabbed the suspected killers: 17-year-old Gabriel Gonzales and his 19-year-old cousin Joe Gonzales will both go on trial for capital murder. In a written statement, Joe confessed that Gabriel was the trigger man.
Kliff Kingsbury-He is without question the most prolific passer in school history. Texas Tech Quarterback Kliff Kingsbury ended his Red Raider career with 39 school records and 19 Big XII records. The senior was named the Associated Press' Big XII Player of the Year. Kingsbury threw for more than 12,000 yards while at Tech and led the Red Raiders to a Texas sweep in his final season with wins over Baylor, Texas A&M, and UT.
Lubbock City Hall and the WTMPA- $1.6 million lost somewhere in the shuffle at City Hall. That led to the close examination of the relationship between the city and the WTMPA, or West Texas Municipal Power Agency. Now, it's been uncovered that the WTMPA owes Lubbock more than five million dollars. City Manager Bob Cass has ordered a financial and operational audit of the contract to help uncover anything illegal or scandalous.
Britney Spears Concert Cancellation- Lights out for the queen of pop. After playing only two songs at the United Spirit Arena, Britney Spears' electrifying high-tech concert came to a screeching halt when a transformer blew-out. The concert's cancellation crushed 15,000 little girls. "The shows promoters said the show might return." But when it was all said and done, promoters said a scheduling conflict kept Spears from coming back.
Prairie Dog Controversey-What to do about the prairie dogs on the city farm. The state told the city to do something about unsafe nitrate levels in the aquifer, caused by treated sewage water possibly seeping into prairie dog burrows. The city's first plan of action was to relocate as many as prairie dogs as possible and poison the rest. But that plan drew fire from animal rights groups across the state and nation. A new plan calls for moving the prairie dogs to the outskirts of the land application site.
Restaurant Smoking Ban-Put to rest! The seemingly age-old Lubbock debate about smoking in public places is finally dead. The debate smoldered for years, even after city council approved a ban on smoking in public. The coalition for the rights of property owners put it to a public vote this past May. In the end, voters approved a smoking ban in public places including restaurants. Bars, bingo parlors, and sports grills are exempt. All restaurants must go smoke free by July 2004.
The Vatican Exhibit- Thirty-one Medieval Frescoes were put on display at the Texas Tech Museum. It was the first ever public display of the art which dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The exhibit drew more than 122,000 visitors from June through September. It also gave an $8.8-million boost to the local economy. The frescoes are now back in the Vatican, only available for art and history research.
Last week we asked you to vote for what you thought was the top story of 2002, and here's how you voted: