By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
They are out there, somewhere.
Today, you could pass them on the street and never give them a second glance. Why should you, since neither you nor anyone else outside of their friends and family have ever heard of them.
But you will.
At some point in 2014 they will burst onto the local, state, national or international scene.
They will do something great or something terrible, something laudatory or something reprehensible.
A year ago, no one had heard of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but everyone knows them now as the Boston Marathon bombers. Tamerlan was killed by police, but Dzhokhar is awaiting trial for the blasts, which killed three people and injured hundreds of others.
Likewise, few outside his country were aware of the existence of Argentinean Bishop Jorge Bergoglio. Today Pope Francis is the toast of the world after saying he preferred “a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty,” and signaling an end to business as usual for the Catholic church.
Ariel Castro was unknown to the world at large as we rang in 2013. Now everyone knows him as the monster who kidnapped three young women — Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus — holding them for a decade, subjecting them to repeated rapes and beatings. However, he didn’t spend long in prison since he hanged himself in his cell.
Edward Snowden, a nondescript mid-level government contractor, wouldn’t have drawn a second look from anyone a year ago. Today he is an international fugitive, wanted by the U.S. government after leaking more than 200,000 classified documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs. He is considered a hero by some, a traitor by many.
Few in this country had any awareness of Rob Ford, even though he was mayor of Canada’s largest city.
But when he admitted smoking crack cocaine “about a year ago in one of my drunken stupors,” he became an international celebrity, much to the chagrin of Toronto residents.
Aaron Alexis was totally unknown, until he took a shotgun into the Washington Navy Yard and murdered 12 people before he was shot dead.
Everyone knew Miley Cyrus as the young, fresh-faced star of “Hannah Montana,” but nobody knew what twerking was until a grown-up Cyrus, apparently determined to leave her unspoiled image behind, danced around in her underwear and waved her behind in Robin Thicke’s face during the MTV Video Music Awards.
Billy Ray Harris was one of thousands of nameless, faceless homeless people trying to survive on the streets of Kansas City.
He was begging for loose change one day when a passerby dropped something in his cup. Instead of a few coins, the young woman had inadvertently dropped her diamond engagement ring into his cup. But instead of keeping the ring, valued at $4,000, Harris returned it to the woman. The story sparked an outpouring of support and donations for Harris, who because of his deed was reunited with his family.
Everyone had heard of celebrity chef Paula Deen, heroic disabled athlete Oscar Pistorius and bicycle champ Lance Armstrong, but we didn’t anticipate watching Deen melt down publicly after being accused of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, or seeing Pistorius standing in a courtroom accused of killing his model girlfriend, or Armstrong, who fervently denied accusations he used performance enhancing drugs when he competed, finally issuing his mea culpa in an extended interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Who are they, these newsmakers of 2014 of whom we have not yet heard? Who will shock us, thrill us, disgust us, sadden us, inspire us and anger us in the new year?
What unknown towns, cities and hamlets will suddenly be splashed across the front pages of newspapers worldwide?
We don’t know. We can’t know, which undoubtedly is for the best. Knowing what was coming wouldn’t make it any easier to take.
That’s probably why nearly half of Americans surveyed recently by the Associated Press said they expect 2014 to be a better year than the one that just concluded.
Here’s hoping you don’t make news in 2014, unless it is of the positive kind. Happy New Year.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com.