Year in Review: The Big Stories of 2011

PHOTO: Casey Anthony overcome with emotion after verdict
Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel

It was a year of popular uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, of devastation from drought and tsunami, and at home, of gridlock and stalemate in Washington.

The trials of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox captured public attention, and Charlie Sheen's meltdown and a glittering royal wedding provided some relief from the grimmer news events.

The biggest story of the year, though, was the one that took us most by surprise: the death of Osama bin Laden in a firefight in Pakistan. "Justice has been done," said President Obama as the body of the mastermind behind 9-11 was buried at sea.

PHOTO: Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly share their story with ABC's Diane Sawyer. Special edition of "20/20" airs Monday, November 14 at 10:00 PM/ET.
Ida Astute/ABC News
Gabrielle Giffords Shot in Arizona

Sen. Gabby Giffords was shot in the head on Jan. 8 when a gunman opened fire outside a supermaret where Giffords was meeting constituents. Six other victims died, including Christina Green, 9, and Judge John M. Roll.

PHOTO: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, listen to U.S. President Barack Obama make a statement on Middle East peace.
Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

On Feb. 11, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed over power to the military after massive anti-government protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

War in Libya

In March, the U.N. authorized "all necessary measures" to prevent attacks on civilians by the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. A Libyan jet bomber crashes after being shot down in Benghazi as Libya's rebel stronghold came under attack.

"Winning" No More

Charlie Sheen's rants ended with Warner Bros. axing him from "Two and a Half Men" on March 8. He was replaced by Ashton Kutcher.

Tsunami Devastates Japan

A March 11 earthquake in northern Japan triggered a tsunami, which sent three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into meltdown, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Dissent and Repression in Syria

A Syrian demonstrator beats a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad with a shoe as he attends a protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Cairo in this April photo. Assad has clung to power by a brutal crackdown on resistance to his regime.

Tornadoes Rip into Southern States

Michael Dunn's mother, Patricia, hugs him as they stand in the road that led to his house, which was completely destroyed after a tornado touched down on April 27 in Concord, Ala. There were more than 170 twisters on one day, leading to a death toll of nearly 300.

Will and Kate Get Hitched

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, stand outside Westminster Abbey after their royal wedding in London on April 29. Nearly 23 million Americans watched the magnificent ceremony.

Osama Bin Laden Killed in Top-Secret Raid

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and other top officials watch video of the firefight that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1. The death came nearly a decade after bin Laden masterminded the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and set off patriotic celebrations in the U.S.

Dominique-Strauss Kahn Arrested on Sex-Assault Charges

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, right, stands with his laywer Benjamin Brafman, left, as they appear in federal court May 16 in New York City. Strauss-Kahn was arrested on May 14 after a maid at the Sofitel Hotel accused him of sexually assaulting her. The charges were later dropped.

Tornado Slams into Joplin

An emergency vehicle drives through a severely damaged neighborhood in Joplin, Mo. A large tornado moved through much of the city on May 22, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses and killing 161 people.

Fame and Drought in East Asia

Tens of thousands of people have died in East Africa's worst drought for 60 years. Somalia was the hardest-hit, with Ethopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Uganda also affected. Half of the victims were children.

PHOTO: Casey Anthony overcome with emotion after verdict
Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel
Casey Anthony Acquitted

Casey Anthony, center, is overcome with emotion along with her defense team following her acquittal on charges of murdering her daughter, Caylee, at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., on July 5. Jurors reached a decision in fewer than 11 hours in a case that attracted huge media interest.

Atlantis Begins Final Mission

The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on July 8 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was the final mission of America's 30-year shuttle program.

PHOTO: In a landmark television event, Diane Sawyer will conduct the first interview with Jaycee Dugard.
ABC News
Jaycee Dugard Speaks

Diane Sawyer conducted the first interview with Jaycee Dugard on July 10. Dugard, 31, who was kidnapped by Philip Garrido when she was 11and was raped and imprisoned in his backyard, giving birth to two of his children.

Terror in Norway

A gunman attacked a youth camp on the small Norwegian island of Utoya on July 22. Some of the victims recorded video of the attack and the aftermath. Anders Behring Breivik confessed to the attack which killed 77 people.

Deal Resolves National Debt Crisis

President Obama met with Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, , and other congressional leaders to negotiate a deal to avoid the nation defaulting on its debt. The cliffhanger went down to the wire.

Mubarak Trial Begins

Egyptian State Television shows Hosni Mubarak laying on a hospital bed inside a cage of mesh and iron bars in a Cairo courtroom on Aug. 3 as his historic trial began on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising that ousted him.

Standard & Poors Downgrades U.S. Credit

Standard & Poor's headquarters in the financial district of New York. On Aug. 5, the ratings company downgraded U.S. credit to one notch below AAA, citing "political brinkmanship" over the debt crisis.

Occupy Wall St. Starts in Manhattan

OWS protesters confront NYPD officers. The demonstrators invaded Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan on Sept. 17, sparking protests around the country and abroad.

Hikers Freed in Iran

U.S. hikers Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal were freed on Sept. 21 after having been detained in Iran on spying charges.

Anwar al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen

Anwar Al-Awlaki is shown in Falls Church, Va. On Sept. 30, the senior Al Qaeda leader, a U.S. citizen, was killed in Yemen by an American drone.

Amanda Knox Freed

Amanda Knox,who had been in prison in Italy for four years after being convicted in the murder of English student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, was freed on appeal on Oct. 3.

Death of Gadhafi

Moammar Gadhafi was killed by rebels in his hometown of Sirte, Libya, on Oct. 20.

PHOTO: Penn St ex-coach, others charged in child sex case
Andy Colwell/The Patriot-News/AP Photo
Jerry Sandusky Indicted

Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, center, arrives in handcuffs at the office of Centre County Magisterial District Judge Leslie A. Dutchcot after he was arrested on Nov. 4. He was indicted on sex-abuse charges following an investigation of more than two years about inappropriate contact with young boys.

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