To borrow a line from the anointed poet laureate of her generation, Taylor Swift, I’m actually “feeling 22”.
No, I haven’t discovered the fountain of youth and there are many parts of being 22 which I don’t miss. It was kind of a hot mess age for me, but pretty please can I get back some of the endless energy and smooth skin I had back then?
I’m talking about looking forward to 2022. Not that I want to erase 2021 from my memory, but I’m excited to see what ‘22 has in store and whether it will be the circuit-breaker year everyone is hoping it will be for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking back on the year that’s gone, you couldn’t argue 2021 was a bigger news year than 2020 — 2020 was the year the world changed, but 2021 was the year the world was forced to adjust and accept the marathon we had been into against our will.
But 2021 hasn’t been that far behind its predecessor, with a constant stream of COVID news about ongoing restrictions, up-and-down case numbers, new strains, and the vexed issue of vaccinations that made you wonder if you were truly stuck in a crossover between (underrated) movies The NeverEnding Story and Groundhog Day, and an episode of The Twilight Zone.
On the local landscape, 2021 was a massive year — arguably the biggest in recent memory. We had cyclones, floods, fires, shocking crimes, council controversies, and a State election landslide.
But this year’s top story can be summed up in four words which have been etched into our memories: “My name is Cleo”. Never has a story provided more of a rollercoaster than the disappearance and rescue of little Cleo Smith. We all feared the worst, and the news she had been found alive was the positive ending we all needed.
It took a brave four-year-old to dismantle the other big story of 2021 — cyclone Seroja. Countless tales of survival emerged from the wreckage and eight months on, I’m still amazed no one was killed or seriously injured when winds up to 170km/h ripped apart swathes of the Mid West.
It’s a story we haven’t forgotten about after the first few weeks or even months, and we plan on continuing our coverage well into next year. We are well aware how many people are still hurting and how far there is to go on the road to recovery.
But what those two stories had in common was highlighting the amazing community spirit and resilience we have in our region when the chips are down, and how willing we are to help our neighbours in need.
Asking around the newsroom, our team’s highlights of the stories they covered this year were wide and varied.
They included being in Carnarvon and getting a 4am call when Cleo was found; covering the powerful protest after the acquittal of the police officer accused of murdering Yamatji woman JC; reviewing the electric Birds of Tokyo concert and impressive Battle of the Bands competition; and seeing popular WA Olympian Peter Bol running around a local oval during a couple of visits to Geraldton pre-and-post Tokyo.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but you can only wonder what ‘22 has up its sleeve. Hopefully it’s nothing that will cause it to say “yo, 2020 and 2021, hold my beer”. It will be the year we as West Australians learn to live with COVID, and how brutal a lesson that turns out to be remains to be seen.
At least come Christmastime in 2022, more families in WA will be able to spend the festive period together compared to this Saturday, when the border is still closed. If you’re without loved ones this Christmas, please know you’re not alone in spirit!
There will be no Geraldton Guardians next week. We are back on deck for our first edition of 2022 on Tuesday, January 4. We will update you with any big news next week on our website and Facebook page.
To all our readers, have an amazing Christmas and happy and healthy new year and thank you for all your support in 2021. If you’re travelling on the roads this festive period, please do all you can to ensure you get to your destination and back home safely. See you in ‘22.