Michael Brown is killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri

Year
2014
Month Day
August 09

On August 9, 2014, police officer Darren Wilson shoots and kills Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in the street of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Protests and riots ensue in Ferguson and soon spread across the country.

There are many different accounts of the incident, including the testimonies of Wilson and of Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown at the time. Many details differ, but most accounts agree that Wilson saw Brown and Johnson walking in the street, demanded they get on the sidewalk, then stopped his police SUV in front of them in order to confront them. He and Brown had an altercation through the open window of the car, during which Wilson fired twice. Brown and Johnson tried to leave, Wilson exited his car to pursue them, and at some point Brown turned back around to face Wilson, who then fired 12 shots, six of which hit Brown. Wilson claimed he fired in self-defense as Brown charged him, which Johnson denied. Many have claimed that Wilson warned Brown he would open fire, and that Brown responded with “Don’t shoot!” before he was killed.

The community immediately reacted with rage at the news of 18-year-old Brown’s death. The shooting ignited long-simmering tensions between the majority-Black population of Ferguson and the local police, who were mostly white. Though public opinion was sharply divided, the protests and riots and the response by Ferguson’s heavily militarized police demonstrated the extent to which the relationship between racial minorities in America and the police had frayed. 

Brown’s name, the phrase “Hands up, don’t shoot” and the very mention of Ferguson quickly entered the lexicon of the growing Black Lives Matter movement. 

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Eric Garner dies in NYPD chokehold

Year
2014
Month Day
July 17

On July 17, 2014, two New York Police Department officers confront Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American father of six, for illegally selling cigarettes. Garner dies after losing consciousness as a police officer locks him in an illegal chokehold, and within hours, a video of the incident begins to spark outrage across the country.

Garner was known as a “neighborhood peacemaker” in his Staten Island community, and was also well-known to the police for selling cigarettes illegally near the ferry terminal on Staten Island. 

Officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin D’Amico, called to the scene because of a fight that Garner reportedly broke up, exchanged words with Garner about his cigarettes before Pantaleo reached around Garner’s neck and put him in a chokehold, despite such a maneuver being against NYPD rules

Pinned to the ground by the officers, Garner repeatedly told them, “I can’t breathe.” Eventually, he lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at a hospital roughly an hour later, and the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by suffocation.

Footage of the incident quickly went viral. There were protests in the days following Garner’s death, but it was a grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo on December 3 that sparked large demonstrations in New York City and elsewhere across the country. 

Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. The police officer whose chokehold led to Garner’s death in 2014 was fired from the Police Department in 2019 and stripped of his pension benefits.

The following year, when New York State repealed its ban on publicizing police disciplinary records, it was revealed that Pantaleo had been investigated for misconduct seven times in the five years before Garner’s death.

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One World Trade Center officially opens in New York City, on the site of the Twin Towers

One World Trade Center officially opens in Manhattan on November 3, 2014. The new tower, along with the rest of the World Trade Center complex, replaced the Twin Towers and surrounding complex, which were destroyed by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

As the city and the nation reeled from the attacks, which set into motion the series of U.S-led military operations dubbed the War on Terror, it was decided that the Twin Towers should be replaced by new office buildings, parks, a museum, and a memorial to those who died. In 2002, after cleanup and recovery efforts had concluded, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced a competition to find the chief architect of the new structure. Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-American architect then in charge of a studio in Berlin, won and became the site’s master planner. In reality, however, a number of people and entities, including then-Governor George Pataki, leaseholder Larry Silverstein, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, wrestled over what would happen to the space commonly referred to as “Ground Zero.”

The initial plans for the site were steeped in post-9/11 patriotic sentiment. Libeskind designed an asymmetrical tower that evoked the Statue of Liberty and stood at the same height as the original World Trade Center, topped with a spire rising to 1,776 feet. Pataki dubbed it the “Freedom Tower,” a name which became commonplace but had largely faded from use by the time One World Trade Center opened.

In 2004, Silverstein’s preferred architect, David Childs, officially took over, with Libeskind staying on as the planner of the site. Childs’ “final” design, a symmetrical and more traditional tower that tapers into an octagon at its midway point and then back into a rectangular prism, was unveiled in 2005. The New York Police Department requested further alterations, most notably a windowless, solid concrete base. Meant to protect against truck bombs and other potential attacks, the base has was criticized as “a grotesque attempt to hide [the building’s] underlying paranoia” by New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff.

Though its cornerstone was laid in 2004, construction on One World Trade did not begin until the summer of 2006. The slow pace of construction—the tower “topped off” in August 2012 and the spire was not installed until May 2013—was a frequent source of consternation for the building’s developers and the city. At the same time, it allowed space for the tower to become more than a reminder of what had been lost. As architecture critic Kurt Andersen put it, “The fact that it’s taken more than a decade to finish, I think —the gradualism—makes that sense of emblematic rebirth more acute and irresistible.”

Prior to the opening, media conglomerate Condé Nast announced that it would move its New York headquarters from Times Square to One World Trade Center, occupying floors 20 through 44. Its location and the legacy of the original World Trade Center made the tower a natural choice for many financial institutions, but the building’s developers made an effort to bring in a diverse group of tenants, including media and tech companies. Known for its floor-to-ceiling, 360 degree views of Manhattan, Long Island, New Jersey and New York Harbor, One World Trade is now one of the most notable features of the Manhattan skyline, a tribute to the buildings that preceded it but a 21st century New York phenomenon in its own right.

READ MORE: How Ground Zero Got Rebuilt

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over the Ukraine-Russia border

Year
2014
Month Day
July 17

On July 17, halfway through a flight from Amsterdam to Malaysia, a passenger plane was shot down over the war-torn Ukraine-Russia Border. All 298 people on board, most of whom were citizens of the Netherlands, died in the explosion.

It was the second Malaysian Air flight to disappear in 2014, after flight 370 crashed over the Indian Ocean on March 8.

The plane took off from Amsterdam at 10:31 GMT. It was expected to fly over the Ukraine-Russia border which, due to a war between Ukrainian fighters and Pro-Russia separatists, had instituted a minimum-altitude restriction just three days earlier to keep planes from being caught in any potential crossfire. The plane made contact and flew into country lines in accordance with restrictions, but disappeared a few hours later, just 30 miles from the border. No distress signal was received.

Questions arose about the flight path. Was it safe? As it turned out, the path had been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization, and by the countries that controlled the airspace through which the plane was set to travel.

While it wasn’t clear in the beginning, it was suspected the plane had been shot down by “ill-trained” Russian separatists. Four days later, after investigators were finally able to get their hands on the plane’s black box, these suspicions were confirmed. The explosion had definitely not come from within. The recorder revealed that, as the plane approached the border, a “high-energy object” exploded a yard from the cockpit, breaking it completely off from the rest of the plane. The pilots were killed instantly. The rest of the plane flew for more than five miles before finally breaking apart. The debris scattered over more than 20 square miles of field.

It took 15 months to figure out which side of the war the projectile had come from. In October, 2015, Dutch investigators were able to discern that the blast had been caused by a Russian-made missile. In June 2016, over two years after the plane was shot down, an international group of investigators published a photo of large part of a Russian-made Buk missile that was found at the crash site.

Finally, in May of 2018, after four years of gathering evidence, a release from the Netherlands and Australia said that it wasn’t just a Russian-made missile that had taken down Flight 17, but that they were officially holding Russia accountable.

“We call on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of flight MH17 and their next of kin,” Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said. The families of the victims have also begged them to take responsibility.

For their part, Russia has repeatedly denied the accusation, claiming that the missile “more than likely belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces.”

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Felipe VI becomes king of Spain after Juan Carlos I abdicates

Year
2014
Month Day
June 19

When the clock struck midnight on June 19, 2014, King Juan Carlos I of Spain’s nearly 40-year reign came to an end. Two weeks after abdicating the Spanish throne amidst sagging approval ratings, Juan Carlos symbolically removed his red sash—signifying his status as leader of the Spanish military—and wrapped it around the waist of his son, 46-year-old Crown Prince Felipe.

The official transfer of power—viewed by many long overdue—was complete.

Carlos took the throne in 1975, after the death of brutal dictator Francisco Franco. Known as a staunch defender of democracy, Carlos immediately spearheaded historic political reforms that led to Spain’s democratic elections in 1976—the first such elections in Spain since 1936. Under his rule, Spain grew into an economic powerhouse, attracting tourists from around the world.

But when Spain’s economy plummeted in 2012, so did Carlos’ approval ratings. Spanish citizens began to feel that the royal family had no consideration for them, or the country’s economic suffering. While the nation was falling into financial crisis, Carlos took heat for excesses such as an elephant-hunting trip to Africa. He was also criticized for taking luxurious gifts, like a yacht from a group of businesses. Further damning Carlos’ rule, his daughter, Princess Infanta Cristina, was being investigated on charges of tax fraud and money laundering. People began to view the royal family as extravagant traitors, and Carlos’ image as a soldier for democracy was dead. A 2013 poll by El Mundo found that nearly two-thirds of Spaniards thought the king should abdicate.

While Carlos’ image as an uncaring royal grew, many saw his son Felipe, who had married a “commoner” as more moral, and felt that the couple could revive the throne and the country. Not everyone agreed, however. On the day of the announcement, demonstrators gathered in Madrid, calling for an end to the monarchy altogether.

Like his father before him, Felipe pushed for transparency and progressive policies. He was the first to meet with LGBT rights groups, and even appeared on the cover of a gay magazine. He also cut his salary by 20 percent, and instituted a law that keeps royal family members from taking gifts.

As part of the abdication deal, Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia kept their immunity from civil or criminal prosecution, while Infanta Cristina was found not guilty of all charges. Her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, was not so lucky. The brother-in-law to now-King Felipe was convicted of business fraud in 2018.

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The Flint water crisis begins

Year
2014
Month Day
April 25

On April 25, 2014 officials from Flint, Michigan switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure for the struggling city. In doing so, they unwittingly introduced lead-poisoned water into homes, in what would become a massive public-health crisis.

The problem started when officials decided to switch the water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Karegnondi Water Authority to save money for the economically struggling city. Before that connection could be built, the city turned to the Flint River as a temporary water source. By May, residents were complaining that the brown water flowing into their homes looked and smelled weird, but the largely majority-African American and poor citizens went ignored by officials. In August, E.coli and coliform bacteria were detected in Flint’s water.

From there, a leaked memo from the Environmental Protection Agency, and several independent studies, warned of dangerous levels of lead in the water. Although the city switched their water supply back in October 2015, the damage to the pipes had already been done. After months of denial and dodging, the mayor, governor and president declared a state of emergency in Flint. Free water bottles and filters were provided to residents to help them cope.

Unfortunately, the crisis didn’t end there for Flint residents. Over a year later, people were still using bottled water to cook, drink and even brush their teeth. The city’s recovery has been slow, as it works to replace 30,000 lead pipes. In 2017, reports showed that the water in most homes was generally safe, but many residents still don’t trust what comes out of their tap.

In the aftermath, residents filed a class-action lawsuit, and 15 state and city leaders faced criminal charges

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First person in U.S. diagnosed with Ebola dies

Year
2014
Month Day
October 08

On October 8, 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with a case of the Ebola Virus Disease in the U.S., dies at age 42 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Shortly before his death, Duncan, who lived in Liberia, had traveled to America from West Africa, which was in the throes of the largest outbreak of the often-fatal disease since its discovery in 1976. After Duncan passed away, two nurses who’d cared for him at the Dallas hospital contracted Ebola; however, both recovered.

On September 15, 2014, Duncan helped transport a sick pregnant woman to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. There was no space for the woman at the facility, so she was taken back to the residence where she’d been staying and died not long afterward from Ebola. On September 19, Duncan—whose relatives later said didn’t know he’d been exposed to Ebola—flew to Dallas to visit his fiancé. He arrived in Texas on September 20 and five days later went to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital complaining of abdominal pain and dizziness. Duncan told a nurse he’d recently traveled from Africa but this information wasn’t effectively communicated to the rest of the medical team, who after a matter of hours sent him home with antibiotics.

READ MORE: 5 Hard-Earned Lessons from Pandemics of the Past

On September 28, Duncan, his health deteriorating, returned to the hospital by ambulance. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Duncan (who wasn’t named publicly at the time) was the first person in America diagnosed with Ebola, a disease that spreads through direct contact with body fluids of an infected individual. (Within a year after the West African Ebola outbreak first was reported in March 2014, thousands of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had perished.) Duncan’s diagnosis sparked anxiety and fear about Ebola across the U.S.; at the time, there were no proven treatments or vaccines for the disease. Health officials started tracking the dozens of people who might’ve come into contact with Duncan after he first became ill, and four of his family members were placed under quarantine for three weeks. None of these people developed Ebola.

Duncan died on October 8 and three days later a nurse who’d cared for him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for Ebola. Four days later, a second nurse at the hospital was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Both women were placed in isolation units at separate medical centers, treated with experimental drugs and declared Ebola-free later that month.

As a result of the events in Dallas, federal officials instituted enhanced screening procedures at a group of U.S. airports handling travelers coming into the country from places with Ebola outbreaks. Officials also issued new guidelines for protective gear worn by health care workers treating patients infected with the virus. A total of two people died in the U.S. during the 2014 outbreak. 

Find all our pandemic coverage here

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Comedy legend Joan Rivers dies

Year
2014
Month Day
September 04

On September 4, 2014, Joan Rivers, one of the best-known comedians of her era, dies at age 81 in a New York City hospital, a week after she went into cardiac arrest while undergoing a medical procedure on her vocal cords at a Manhattan clinic. During a showbiz career that spanned more than five decades, Rivers blazed a trail for women in stand-up comedy and turned “Can we talk?” into a national catchphrase. No topic was taboo for the irreverent, sharp-tongued performer, who poked fun at her personal life and affinity for plastic surgery, skewered Hollywood celebrities and once said, “I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.”

Born Joan Molinsky on June 8, 1933, to Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, the entertainer graduated from Barnard College in 1954. Interested in becoming an actress, she scored parts in Off-Broadway plays and worked office temp jobs to support herself. In the late 1950s, she started performing stand-up comedy in nightclubs as a means to earn money; at the time, there were few other female stand-up comics. In the early 1960s, she did a stint with the Chicago-based Second City comedy troupe. Along the way, at the suggestion of an agent, she changed her last name to Rivers. In 1965, her career took off after she made her first appearance on “The Tonight Show,” hosted by Johnny Carson, who told her she was going to be a star. Rivers went on to rack up numerous guest spots on the program, while also appearing on other TV comedy shows and doing her stand-up act around the country.

In 1983, Rivers was tapped as the permanent guest host on “The Tonight Show.” Three years later, she inked a deal for her own late-night TV show on another network. Afterward, Carson, who reportedly felt betrayed, never spoke to Rivers again (she was blacklisted from “The Tonight Show” until 2014, when host Jimmy Fallon invited her on as a guest). “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” debuted in October 1986 but soon sank in the ratings, and Rivers was fired in May 1987. That August, Rivers’ husband, Edgar Rosenberg, who served as a producer of her show, committed suicide.

READ MORE: How Joan Rivers Bounced Back

Rivers’ career temporarily stalled but she eventually signed on to host her own daytime talk show, “The Joan Rivers Show,” which aired from 1989 to 1993. Next, the raspy-voiced comedian added fashion maven to her resume and helped revolutionize red-carpet coverage and popularize the question “Who are you wearing?,” after she and her daughter, Melissa, began hosting E! Entertainment’s pre-award shows for the Golden Globes, Academy Awards and other events, starting in the mid-1990s. From 2010 until her death, Rivers was a co-host of the TV program “Fashion Police,” on which she cattily critiqued the style choices of celebrities. Rivers also published a dozen books during her career, produced a jewelry line for TV shopping channel QVC and supported a variety of charitable causes. After starting out in the 1950s with dreams of working in theater, she earned a Tony Award nomination in the best actress category in 1994 for her role in the Broadway play “Sally Marr…and her escorts,” which she co-wrote.

Rivers gave what turned out to be her last stand-up performance, in Manhattan, on August 27, 2014, the night before the medical procedure that led to her death on September 4. Three days later, the legendary funny woman was memorialized at a star-studded service in New York City. As Rivers had noted in her 2012 book “I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me,” she wanted a send-off that was “a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action.”

READ MORE: Inside Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson’s Epic Falling Out

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Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams dies at 63

Year
2014
Month Day
August 11

Robin Williams, the prolific Oscar-winning actor and comedian, died by suicide on August 11, 2014. He was 63. 

On the big screen, Williams, who was born in Chicago in 1951, made his debut in the 1977 low-budget comedy “Can I Do it ‘Til I Need Glasses?” then went on to appear in films such as “The World According to Garp” (1982), “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987), for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination, in the best actor category, for his performance as an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey. Williams also received best actor Oscar nods for his role as an influential English teacher in “Dead Poets Society” and his role as a delusional homeless man in “The Fisher King” (1991).

Among the performer’s other credits are “Aladdin” (1992), in which he voiced the part of the genie, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” in which he portrayed a British nanny and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar, in the best supporting actor category, for his role as a therapist. Williams followed these projects with films including “One Hour Photo” (2002), “The Night Listener” (2006), the “Happy Feet” series (2006-11) and the “Night at the Museum” series (2006-14). 

Williams was involved in a number of charitable causes, such as co-hosting telethons, along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, for Comic Relief, an organization that helps homeless people. The actor also was a regular on USO tours, entertaining American troops around the world. In his stand-up routines, Williams spoke openly about his experiences with substance abuse and sobriety.

After Williams died, tributes poured in from the Hollywood community and beyond. Then-president Barack Obama said: “[He] was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan and everything in-between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien—but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

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Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall dies

Year
2014
Month Day
August 12

On August 12, 2014, actress Lauren Bacall, who shot to fame in her debut film, 1944’s “To Have and Have Not,” in which she appeared opposite Humphrey Bogart, with whom she would have a legendary romance, dies at her New York City home at age 89. In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, the smoky-voiced Bacall made more than 40 films, including “The Big Sleep,” (1946) “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953) and “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996).

Born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in the Bronx, New York, she began using the last name Bacal, part of her mother’s maiden name, after her parents divorced when she was young. (While breaking into acting, she added a second “l” to her last name, and Howard Hawks, who directed Bacall’s big-screen debut, dubbed her Lauren). After graduating from high school in Manhattan in 1940, she studied acting but quit after a year because she could no longer afford the tuition. She went on to work as an usher in Broadway theaters and also started modeling. Her cover photo for Harper’s Bazaar magazine eventually came to the attention of Hawks, who cast her in his wartime drama “To Have and Have Not.” During the making of the film—in which Bacall famously utters the line: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow”—she and the then-married Bogart, who was more than twice her age and already the star of such films as “The Maltese Falcon” and “Casablanca,” began an affair.

Married in 1945, Bogart and Bacall became one of Hollywood’s iconic couples and made three more films together, “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage” (1947) and “Key Largo” (1948). Bacall also appeared in such movies as “Young Man with a Horn” (1950) with Kirk Douglas, “How to Marry a Millionaire” with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable and “Designing Woman” (1957) with Gregory Peck. Her marriage to Bogart, which produced two children, ended when the actor died of cancer in 1957 at age 57. After a brief romance with Frank Sinatra, Bacall wed actor Jason Robards in 1961. The pair, who had a son together, divorced in 1969.

Among Bacall’s other screen credits are “Harper” (1966) with Paul Newman, “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “Misery” (1990) and “The Mirror Has Two Faces” with Barbra Streisand. For her role in the latter film, Bacall earned her lone Academy Award nomination, in the best supporting actress category. (In 2009, she received an honorary Oscar.) Bacall also appeared in a number of theatrical productions and won best actress Tony awards for 1970’s “Applause” and 1981’s “Woman of the Year.”

Despite her achievements, Bacall realized the public likely would always associate her with Bogart. As she said in a 1999 Newsday interview: “I’ll never get away from him. I accept that. He was the emotional love of my life, but I think I’ve accomplished quite a bit on my own.”

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