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The second year of the new millennium (or first, depending on whom you believe, and aren't you glad that argument has subsided?) will be remembered primarily for things that happened outside Knoxville. This was the year Americans discovered how illusory our ideas of safety and security really were, and how dangerous it is to not pay attention to the world beyond our borders. It was the year we learned the difference between Islam and radical Islamists, between Pashtuns and Tajiks, between Tora Bora and Jalalabad.
The events that marked life here in Knoxdom were, thankfully, less traumatic and more incremental. Still, they were significant, and well worth considering and remembering. It's always dangerous trying to guess how any one moment, or any one year, will be judged from some future point of view. What seems crucial now may be completely forgotten in a decade, or even by the next December. But from the limited hilltop perspective afforded us in looking back at the last 12 months, it is hard not to see 2001 as a turning point of some sort. For the past five years, when we have sat down to compile our Year in Review issue, we have found ourselves repeating the same old things: the same old political fights, the same old names and places, the same old frustrations. Not so this year.
Oh sure, some of the themes are familiar, and if some things are changing, others are resolutely staying the same. Taken as a whole, however, 2001 felt important. The long-visible cracks in the facade of the Knoxville we know finally started to splinter, giving us glimpses of the Knoxville to come. This doesn't necessarily mean a better Knoxville, mind you, just a different one. The next few years will undoubtedly be more an evolution than a revolution, and some of the shifts might be so slight that you won't notice them at first. But from the death of Danny Mayfield to the fall of J. Wade Gilley, from the all-or-nothing warfare between the school board and County Commission to the historic City Council elections, this was a year that things started to happen. What does it all mean? We'll leave that to 2002 to sort out. But at least we're looking forward to it.
December 20, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 51
© 2001 Metro Pulse