WICHITA (FoxKansas.com) -- As 2011 wraps up, there were some big national and international developments that generated headlines. Here's a recap of what people were talking about.
Osama bin Laden was caught and killed. Social media sites began buzzing when news began circulating on a Sunday night that the most wanted terrorist in the world had been killed at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals while he was in a compound in Pakistan. Bin Laden was located at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan after American intelligence sources traced his whereabouts after receiving several leads in a mission that lasted for months. President Barack Obama announced the news from the White House during a rare Sunday night address to the nation. The death of bin Laden came just four months before the nation would mark the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attack, masterminded by bin Laden.
U.S. Congresswoman targeted. It was a routine Saturday morning in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8 when Gabrielle Giffords was meeting her constituents outside a grocery store. The event turned out to be anything but routine as a gunman, later identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire, wounding Giffords and a dozen others and killing six bystanders. Giffords is still recovering from her injuries and Loughner is in custody where officials are still trying to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
U.S. troops in Iraq head home. On Dec. 15, the U.S. officially ended its military campaign in Iraq. The end to the war capped the death of nearly 4,500 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis who were killed during the war, which began in 2004 with a "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign that unfolded live on American television sets and computers. In the end, the campaign forced the removal of former dictator Saddam Hussein but also stoked massive protests and controversy.
Penn State sex scandal. Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was snared by allegations that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with 10 young boys, often inside Penn State football facilities or in hotel rooms on team road trips. The scandal engulfed others at the school, including legendary Athletic Director Joe Paterno, a vice president and the university's president, all of whom were blamed for not doing enough or turning a blind eye to the allegations. In the end, all three were fired from the school while Sandusky is facing several criminal charges in connection with the allegations.
Wild Weather. Mother Nature brought a series of storms to the nation in 2011, said to be the costliest year for natural disasters in American history. In early April, a series of storms pounded the central and southern plains states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, West Virginia and Georgia. On May 22, an EF5 tornado struck Joplin, Missouri, killing 158 people and leaving a wide swath of destruction and devastation. In August, Hurricane Irene marched up the East Coast and was blamed for at least 45 deaths, over $7 billion in damage and widespread flooding. Meanwhile, the summer months brought drought to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona and New Mexico with losses to land and livestock in the $10 billion range.
High profile court cases. Two notorious figures finally had their day in court and it was a mixed outcome. Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of playing a role in the death of her toddler daughter was acquitted of the charges on July 5 following a 36-day trial and 11 hours of deliberation. The Anthony trial played out on national television and catapulted Anthony to international fame. Following the jury's verdict, Anthony went into hiding and hasn't been seen publicly ever since. In November, Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced to serve four years in the Los Angeles County Jail after he was convicted in the June 2009 death of entertainer Michael Jackson. Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after Jackson suffered a fatal dose of an anesthetic that was administered at home.
A visionary passes. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and the firm's biggest booster lost his battle with cancer and succumbed on Oct. 5. His career in Silicon Valley spanned some 30 years and brought many global innovations, including the iPhone, iPod and iPad.
Protesters occupy Wall Street and Main Street. Fed up by big bank bailouts and the ongoing prosperity of the nation's wealthiest 1 percent, thousands of people began camping out to protest economic inequality and greed. The protest began on Sept. 17 in Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district and eventually spread to other parks and areas throughout the nation.
So what do you think will be the top story of 2012? Vote in our online poll above!
FoxKansas.com Staff Writer Alfred Charles contributed to this report. He can be reached at email@example.com.