The Worst Moments Of 2016

Published December 15, 2016
Updated December 14, 2016

Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

Flint Water
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for the city of Flint, Michigan on January 5. Changes in the city’s water source caused between 6,000 and 12,000 children to be exposed to high levels of lead from aging pipes and improperly treated water.

The water crisis is also a possible cause of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak, which has killed 10 people.

Several lawsuits and indictments of public officials later, reports say lead levels are under control – but many Flint residents still claim to have undrinkable water.

North Korean Nuclear Tests

Nuclear Test
On January 6, North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test ever, and its first of two this year alone. The detonation of what may have been an especially powerful hydrogen bomb occurred at the Punggye-ri Test Site.

According to North Korean sources, the second test, on September 9, showed success for a warhead that could be mounted onto a rocket.

World leaders almost universally condemned both tests, with President Obama stating that they represent "a grave threat to regional security and to international peace and stability."

David Bowie Dies

David Bowie
The first major celebrity death of 2016 dealt a heavy blow. David Bowie, the innovative pop star that entertained us for more than four decades, died of cancer at age 69 on January 10. MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

Alan Rickman Dies

Alan Rickman
Beloved Harry Potter star Alan Rickman died just four days later, on January 14. Rickman, also age 69, died of prostate cancer. Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Zika Virus Spreads

Zika Virus
The Zika virus gained global traction in early February. The mosquito-borne virus caused fever, rash, joint pain, headaches – but most devastatingly, a sharp increase in occurrences of the debilitating birth defect microcephaly.

The World Health Organization warned pregnant women not to travel, as reported Zika outbreaks were occurring in 23 countries. Thankfully, as of November 18, Zika lost its public emergency status.

Terrorist Attacks In Brussels

On March 22, suicide bombers carried out three coordinated attacks at the city airport and a local metro station in Brussels, Belgium. In the end, the attacks, for which ISIS claimed responsibility, killed 35 people (including the three bombers) and injured 300.KETEVAN KARDAVA/AFP/Getty Images

Garry Shandling Dies

Garry Shandling
Known for his neurotic, observational humor, Garry Shandling was known to be a genius by many in the comedy world. Shandling died on March 24 at age 66.

He’d suffered from no known disease or illness, and it’s widely thought (though not confirmed) that he died of a heart attack.

He was most known for The Larry Sanders Show, which earned dozens of award nominations and plaudits from critics.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Patty Duke Dies

Patty Duke
Patty Duke died at age 69 on March 29, only five days after Garry Shandling. Duke is perhaps best remembered for starring in the sitcom The Patty Duke Show beginning in 1963, as well as winning an Oscar for starring Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker at age 16, making her the youngest Oscar winner ever at the time.

Outside of acting, Duke earned acclaim for later writing about the bipolar disorder from which she suffered.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Prince Dies

Prince Dies
Prince’s death on April 21 at the age of 57 left the world in shock. We didn’t know many details at first – only that he was found unresponsive in his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

Tributes poured in from all around the world, in memory of the artist, who we would later learn died of an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl.

EgyptAir Crash

Egypt Crash
On May 19, EgyptAir Flight 804 crashed into the Mediterranean en route from Paris to Cairo, killing all 66 people on board.

While many signs point to a fire as the cause, some French authorities claim that Egypt may be covering up certain information. Furthermore, French news outlet Le Figaro claimed that traces of TNT were found on board. Ultimately, the full details behind the crash, as of now, remain a mystery.

Muhammad Ali Dies

Muhammad Ali
One of the most inspiring and polarizing figures of the 20th century, Muhammad Ali died on June 3 at age 74.

The heavyweight champion started boxing at the age of 12. He won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960, and went on to become three-time lineal heavyweight champion.

Ali set an example of racial pride for African-Americans and resistance to white oppression during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He also refused his draft into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. Found guilty of draft evasion and stripped of his boxing titles, Ali successfully appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court and got his conviction overturned.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Orlando Shooting
In the deadliest mass shooting (and deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people) in US history, Omar Mateen carried an assault rifle and a pistol into the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12.

He started shooting, and ultimately killed 49 people and wounded at least 53 others in this horrendous hate crime. Mateen called 911 during the attack and pledged his allegiance to ISIS.

Following a three-hour standoff, police crashed into the building with an armored vehicle and killed the perpetrator, who had been a person of interest to the FBI since 2013, when he stated that he had Al Qaeda connections.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Brexit Uk
On June 23, British citizens voted on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union, or leave it. Politicians, expert groups, economists, even trading partners such as India and China warned of the problems that Britain’s withdrawal would cause.

Still, 52 percent of voters were in favor of leaving the Union. Though there is still quite a bit of time before UK’s exit, currency exchange rates have plummeted and the UK has seen slow economic growth.
Mary Turner/Getty Images

Istanbul Airport Attack

Airport Attack
On June 29, gunmen also armed with explosives killed 45 people and injured more than 230 during a terrorist attack at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

Although the group did not officially claim responsibility for the attack, Turkish authorities generally agree that ISIS was responsible.
Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images

Terrorist Attacks in Nice, France

Nice France
After the Bastille Day fireworks display on July 14, a truck driven by assumed radical Islamic terrorist Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel deliberately plowed through the celebrating crowd in Nice, France.

This resulted in the deaths of 86 people, and caused injury to 434 others.

Police ended the attack by shooting the perpetrator, and five accomplices were charged with "criminal conspiracy in relation to a terrorist enterprise."

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Worsens

Syrian Refugees
Syria’s civil war created the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, with 11 million Syrians displaced. More than 4.5 million of these people (2.5 million of them children) have fled to surrounding regions to escape the violence in 2016.

Following the 2015 Paris terror attacks, 31 state governments in the US protested the admission of Syrian refugees to their states, with some seeking to block their admission. These efforts to block refugees have been unsuccessful in court.

Stabbings In Japan

Japan Stabbing
In the largest mass killing in Japan since WWII, a Japanese man stabbed 45 disabled people in a facility for the disabled.

Satoshi Uematsu broke into the Tokyo facility – where he used to work – on July 26 and tied up caregivers so he could move freely about the building. When he was done, 19 people were dead and 26 were injured.

Uematsu surrendered himself to the police, telling them, “It’s better that disabled people disappear.”

Wildfires Rage

Wild Fires
The droughts of 2016 brought wildfires to numerous areas within the United States. California, Idaho, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, and Alabama all saw fires rage out of control, destroying trees, property, and lives.JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Boko Haram Attacks Worsen

Boko Haram
The Islamic militant group Boko Haram has been a brutally destructive force in Africa since at least 2003.

Unfortunately, 2016 saw new terrorist attacks by the group, whose main goal is to implement Islamic law in Nigeria and who forbids any activity associated with Western civilization.

Along with the kidnapping of 276 young girls in 2014 (more than 200 are still in captivity) Boko Haram attacked two Nigerian villages and dispatched two suicide bombers to refugee camps in February, killing at least 88 people.

Global Heat Records Continue

Global Warming
NASA’s mid-year climate analysis showed that each of the first six months of 2016 were the warmest respective months worldwide in modern recorded history. If the data ultimately reveals that those trends have held true, as many scientists predict will be the case, then 2016 will officially become the hottest year on record.

“In the last 30 years we’ve really moved into exceptional territory,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).”
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

ISIS Threat Continues

Fighting Isis

Cholera in Haiti

Haiti Cholera
Cholera was not a problem in Haiti until 2010, when travelers from the United Nations inadvertently introduced it to their population.

Now, after Hurricane Matthew, cholera has risen to epidemic status, affecting more than 7,800 Haitian people in 2016 alone.

“What we see now is that cholera occurs among the poorest of the poor because they have very limited access to safe water. You have to drink very bad water to get cholera, and if people drink from a contaminated water source, it means they have no alternative.” – WHO cholera response team
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Beleaguered Rio Olympics

Rio Pollution Doll Floating
Between August 5 and 21, the Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And while the proceedings went off without any serious incidents of violence and the like, the games were mired in concerns over the city's abysmal crime and pollution (itself a major problem, Olympics aside), with many athletes fearing for their health and lamenting the extent to which these conditions would reflect poorly on the games.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gene Wilder Dies

Gene Wilder
August 29 saw the death of 83-year-old Gene Wilder, the beloved star of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles.Wikimedia Commons

Massive Cyber Attack

Internet Hack
On October 21, many popular websites around the world went down because of a large scale cyber attack.

Twitter, Paypal, Spotify, and more were unavailable during certain times of the day, as the internet infrastructure company Dyn was dealing with “distributed denial-of-service” attacks.

The disturbing development in this hack was the use of smart devices making up the “internet of things” such as web-connected home thermostats and baby monitors. New strains of malware used these devices to help carry out the attack, unbeknownst to their owners.
Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images

Afghan Civilians Suffer Mightily

Afghan Civilians
2016 was the worst year for fatalities of Afghan civilians. In just the first nine months of 2016, the ongoing war in Afghanistan took the lives of more than 2,500 civilians.

“Civilians have been killed by crossfire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assassinations, bombings, and night raids into houses of suspected insurgents” says the Watson Institute at Brown University.

About 104,000 people have died in the Afghanistan war since 2001.

Leonard Cohen Dies

Leonard Cohen
Ending a musical career that spanned five decades, 82-year-old singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen died peacefully on the morning of November 7. A poet and somewhat reluctant star, Cohen often sang of depression, spirituality, sexuality, and war. Paul Butterfield/Getty Images

Florence Henderson Dies

Florence Henderson
Best known for her role as Carol Brady on the iconic sitcom The Brady Bunch, Florence Henderson died on November 24, at age 82. Mike Windle/Getty Images

John Glenn Dies

John Glenn
On December 8, decorated military veteran, astronaut, and U.S. senator John Glenn died at age 95.

After serving in the military in both World War II and the Korean War, rising to the rank of colonel, Glenn made history as one of the world's first astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth. After retiring from NASA, Glenn served as a Democratic Senator for his home state of Ohio from 1974 through 1999.
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The year 2016 was a roller coaster of sadness that just refused to quit. By the time we were just 14 days in, both David Bowie and Alan Rickman had left us, setting a tone of mourning that would last throughout the year. Indeed, 2016 took more than its fair share of beloved entertainers, saw too many senseless tragedies, and just seemed all around terrible.

Before we lay 2016 to rest (at last), let’s look back at some of the greatest losses and worldwide crises that this excruciatingly depressing year dealt us.

If 2016 has you down, take a look at some of the most inspiring words from David Bowie and Muhammad Ali, two of the legends that left us this year.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Kelly, Erin. "The Worst Moments Of 2016.", December 15, 2016, Accessed May 25, 2024.