Listmania 2011


The Hippodrome Theatre's front steps tops the list for local places to people watch. (Sun file photo)

Published: Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 6:06 p.m.

The end of the year means it's now time for our annual listing of things big and small, wild and wooly and just about everything else you can think of in pop culture and arts and entertainment. So sit back in your recliner, leave the TV remote on the table and strap in for a year's worth ride through Gainesville.

— Bill Dean, entertainment editor

BILL DEAN'S MEMORABLE NIGHTS OF THE YEAR

The jury on this year's crop of pop-culture keepers may be open for discussion, but you can get in the express lane of the arts-and-entertainment bank with this one: It was a good year to be in Gainesville for performances. Just about anything you could want was here, and here's just some of the evidence (in no particular order).

THE FEST 10: The anniversary edition of the punk festival that draws blue-jeaners and tatters alike from around the world in October became the one to beat. All of Gainesville's nationally known heavy hitters were there including Against Me! Less Than Jake and Hot Water Music along with a mind-numbing array of current local bands from Heavy Petty to Greenland is Melting.

THE FAB FAUX: In a town that loves the Beatles, this New York-based group (with bassist Will Lee of Letterman's band and guitarist Jimmy Vivino of Conan's) unleashed a purist's take on songs you could live or die by at the Phillips Center on July 8 ... “Eleanor Rigby” with spot-on strings, Side 2 of ”Abbey Road” complete with “Here Comes the Sun” and the "medley,” flawlessly played.

“FREE FRIDAYS” CONCERT SERIES: Yes, those music performances at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza are free and on Friday ... and for six months of the year from spring to fall serve up the area's finest week in and week out. Where else can you hear tributes to the Allman Brothers, Woodstock and Gram Parsons along with everything else from Little Jake and the Soul Searchers to Jacare Brazil?

ANY SHOW BY MORNINGBELL AND THE SHODDY BEATLES: Any show by this natural tandem is a memorable night and a worthy expenditure of time and effort: Immaculately crafted originals joined by crowd favorites like “Helter Skelter” that border on the maniacal; typically on a Friday at Double Down Live. Get in line now.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: We still get arena shows at the O-Dome and Cirque's current touring extravaganza in October lived up to advance billing with eye-popping acrobatics and gravity-defying feats.

SCOTT KAUFFMANN'S TOP 5 VENUES IN GAINESVILLE

1. THE ATLANTIC: So why the Atlantic? Oh yeah, because it's awesome. There's a great atmosphere, an ambiance if you will, that is lacking pretty much everywhere else in town. The drinks are reasonably priced, it's not too big, not too small and the music is almost always great.

2. THE BULL: This place would be at the top of the list if it weren't so tiny. As far as a place where you can listen to some great acoustic music most nights of the week while you sit with good friends and sip on even better beer, you can't really beat The Bull. Also the art on the walls displays some really great local artists.

3. DOUBLE DOWN LIVE: Some people in the music scene have some mixed feelings about this place, but I love it. Friendly bartenders, great national acts and it's nicely decorated. Plus, The Porch is a great place to escape to if a band isn't to your liking.

4. THE BACKYARD: Over the past year, The Backyard has really progressed from just a little spot in the corner of the courtyard connecting Boca Fiesta and the Palomino, to an actual stage with a little roof and a decent sound system. Also, there's pool and a jukebox inside, so that's cool.

5. WAYWARD COUNCIL: Tiny, volunteer operated and it's got records and zines, AND you can bring your own beer ... Sounds fun to me.

PAT DOOLEY'S TOP 10 MUSICAL DOWNLOADS

I will remember 2011 as the year I picked up the guitar. Hopefully, I will remember 2012 as the year I learned how to play more than “Little Black Egg.”

And as bad as Florida's football season was I'd rather give you my 10 favorite downloads from the year rather than Florida's 10 best plays. Besides, I couldn't think of 10.

1. “GHOST TOWNS,” RADICAL FIRE: The first time I played this song for my wife, she fell in love with it. So did I.

2. “A SIMPLE GAME OF GENIUS,” NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS: I like the Gallagher Brothers better when they are in separate groups than when they are together.

3. “SHE WALKS IN SO MANY WAYS,” THE JAYHAWKS: A typical Jayhawks song with great harmonies and jangling guitars. Which is good because I love The Jayhawks.

4. “YOU ARE A TOURIST,” DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: More great stuff from an underrated band. At least that's what my 10-year old Kelsey says.

5. “THE LION'S ROAR,” FIRST AID KIT: I have a real weakness for acerbic songs sung by women accompanied by acoustic guitars. That and cheeseburgers.

6. “TIME SPENT IN LOS ANGELES,” DAWES: A reader suggested this group and I love both of the Jackson Brown-esque songs I downloaded.

7. “HOLDIN' ON TO BLACK METAL,” MY MORNING JACKET: I know, it's a little cheesy. But the tune stays with you.

8. “DOWN BY THE WATER,” THE DECEMBERISTS: I've become a big fan of these group and suddenly have a hankering for accordian music.

9. “HOW COME YOU NEVER GO THERE,” FEIST: Kind of reminds me of a She & Him song.

10. “LONELY BOY,” THE BLACK KEYS: Great follow up to the album that hooked me on the group.

PROLIFIC TWITTERERS

Some Gainesville residents have taken to the social-networking site Twitter, which allows them to quickly update their “followers” in 140 characters or less. Here is unranked sampling of the best tweeters:

1. BRUCE FLOYD (@brucefloyd): UF's prolific social-media specialist has posted around 18,000 tweets, commenting, sometimes sarcastically, on international news, the Gators and whatever falls in between.

2. JEANNA MASTRODICASA (@DrJtotheMastro): The lame-duck city commissioner and UF administrator takes on local politics. (Warning: As a Bulldog, she takes the occasional swipe at the Gators.)

3. ALEX PATTON (@alex_patton): On the other side of the political fence, this GOP consultant updates constantly about local, state and national politics.

4. ROWDY TOWN MAYOR (@RowdyTownMayor): This super-fan of the UF men's basketball team follows the Gators throughout the season, even tweeting from the stands during games amid fellow “Rowdy Reptiles.”

5. COLLEEN DEGROFF (@GainesvilleLife): According to Klout.com, which tracks social-media users' reach, this real estate agent is the most influential tweeter about Gainesville.

— Chad Smith, staff writer

LOCAL RESTAURANT TRENDS

1. MEXICAN: This year saw the opening of Willy's, La Nopalera, Agave Blue, Mr. Tequila's Grill and Boca Fiesta opened inside the nearby Sun Center, while Las Margaritas moved to a more visible location. El Rancho Viejo reopened and Tijuana Flats is preparing to open another location.

2. BARBECUE: Or is it BBQ or bar-b-que? Nevermind, just pass the napkins — SmokeHouse and Kay Bros. opened, Chix opened (then closed) with David's planning to open a second location in its stead. Adam's Rib is negotiating for a second and larger location, and Sonny's in Alachua renovated and reopened.

3. SO LONG: 2011 saw the demise of Backyard Burgers, Hooter's, Church's Chicken and two out of three Quizno's. Longtime local eateries to close include Green Plantains, Virtually Cuban, Gator Dawgs and soon Book Lovers Café inside Books Inc. Chix and 13th Street Palace, we hardly knew ye.

4. NEW CHAINS: The return of Sonic and Hardee's, the opening of Jason's Deli and another Five Guys.

5. SUSHI: Not much new this year, actually, other than Sushi Chao, but you can't throw a rock here without hitting a sushi joint. One struggling fine dining restaurateur once told me that's because sorority girls think it's low fat.

— Anthony Clark, business editor

TOP 5 PLACES TO PEOPLE WATCH

1. HIPPODROME STEPS: From this perch, you have a birds eye view of bustling downtown without being among the flock. Grab a cup of coffee from either shop, sit on the stone steps and watch the city unfold.

2. SQUIRREL RIDGE PARK: Parks are always full of interesting people, but Squirrel Ridge has the added bonus of a dog park and grassy fields. Watch bichons roam or children swing. In the fall, you can look in on a men's rugby practice or gawk at sorority members participating in team-building activities.

3. UNIVERSITY AVENUE AT BAR CLOSING TIME: There's nothing more sobering than seeing hundreds of drunken students find their way out of local bars. Any time you wish you were in college again, take a gander at 20somethings arguing, searching for their vehicles and falling prey to their beer goggles.

4. ANY HIKING TRAIL: This is probably the most active of people-watching sites as it requires exercise, but the county's trails are full of interesting residents and visitors, each with a story to tell.

5. THE OAKS MALL: While most malls are filled with roaming bands of teenagers, the mall is a good place to see all that Gainesville's populace has to offer. You won't see as many people from diverse backgrounds any where else, and you may pick up a few deals while there.

— Jackie Alexander, staff writer

TOP FREE iPHONE APPS

FLIPBOARD: This cool new app allows you to view news streams (by category — Business, Film, Sports, etc.) that it aggregates in a magazine-styled flipbook. You can even view your Facebook and Twitter streams (and some other social networking streams) without being bombarded with massive lists.

INSTAGRAM: Apple named this photo app its 2011 “iPhone App of the Year.” You can take retro-styled photos (reminiscent of a carnival photo booth) by applying different photo filter effects and borders. When you're done, you can easily share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

NPR: While there are many great free news apps on the market, this one is especially useful if you're an NPR avid listener. You can stream any NPR-affiliated station in the nation on your iPhone or download audio clips of your favorite shows and listen to them later.

WORDS WITH FRIENDS: This addictive Scrabble-like game integrates with Facebook so you can challenge any of your friends to a one-on-one game. Entertainment for hours or throughout the day — trust me.

MINT: This personal finance app syncs information from your bank and credit cards and allows you to manage your money on the go. It takes information based on your purchases and categorizes them (buy something from McDonald's using your debit card and that gets categorized as Food). You can set up budgets and spending limits for those categories and it alerts you if you go over them.

GOOGLE TRANSLATE: Want to know how to say “I'm the best” in French or 16 other languages? You can say that phrase into your iPhone and this app will automatically translate it into text or you can choose to hear a sound clip of the spoken phrase.

MAPQUEST: The Maps app that comes standard on iPhones is great for providing real-time tracking via your blue dot. But this app is great for when you're driving as it acts like a GPS device and voices those directions from your iPhone.

YELP: Useful for finding nearby restaurants, stores and businesses in your area with reviews from users.

EVERNOTE: Jot down a quick note, snap a photo of a presentation or business card, or save a clip from a webpage. Evernote saves all of these and organizes them on your iPhone and computer. It saves all of your information in a cloud and makes it available anywhere you sign into your account.

DROPBOX: The same cloud technology from Evernote applies to Dropbox too, but for your files. Save a doc or picture to your Dropbox account and it'll be available on your iPhone or computer. Access them anytime by signing into your account.

— Vishal Persaud, staff writer

BEST CDs

“BARTON HOLLOW,” THE CIVIL WARS: A man, a woman, some strings and much sadness. With its lush harmonies, this disc is as beautiful as it is haunting.

“SO BEAUTIFUL OR SO WHAT,” PAUL SIMON: Pop music's greatest poet is at the top of his game.

“THE GOAT RODEO SESSIONS,” YO-YO MA, CHRIS THILE, EDGAR MEYER AND STUART DUNCAN: Ever wonder what a bluegrass-classical mashup sounds like? This is it. And it sounds amazing.

“THE KING IS DEAD,” THE DECEMBERISTS: A new approach for this folk-pop band yields irresistible tunes.

“CEREMONIALS,” FLORENCE + THE MACHINE: There is so much soul in Florence Welch's voice.

“SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN,” CHRIS THILE MICHAEL DAVES:Old-school bluegrass from amazing players.

“STEVE MARTIN AND THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS: RARE BIRD ALERT,” STEVE MARTIN: Yes, it's that Steve Martin, and, yes, he still plays a mean banjo. Bluegrass with whimsy, plus a shout-out to Dunnellon banjo player Mark Johnson.

“REVERSE THREAD,” REGINA CARTER: The jazz violinist mixes her craft with African musicians.

“21,” ADELE: Oh, what a voice.

“AN APPALACHIAN CHRISTMAS,” MARK O'CONNOR: Odd to have a Christmas disc in the list, especially one some previously recorded tracks. But one listen to opera star Renee Fleming singing “Silent Night” with O'Connor's fiddle accents and you are mush.

— Dave Schlenker, staff writer

BEST DIGITAL ALBUMS

“LET ENGLAND SHAKE,” PJ HARVEY: This Mercury Prize winner may rank as the best work of a brilliant career, pairing earworm-caliber hooks with a sincere lyrical treatment of World War I bloodshed.

“FATHER, SON, HOLY GHOST,” GIRLS: The horrorshow backstory of frontman Christopher Owens draws much attention, but the production by bassist JR White deserves much credit for making this record sound so good. Anyone enduring the same 500-song rotation on classic-rock radio should listen to this respectful revisiting of the electric guitars-bass-organ pop sound.

“HURRY UP, WE'RE DREAMING,” M83: This double album by synth-drenched shoegazer Anthony Gonzalez is not free of filler. But its highlights are very high indeed, with surely the most epic side one, track one-two punch of recent years.

“DAYS,” REAL ESTATE: Guitar-jangle revivalists turn their reverb pedals to 11 for an effortlessly laid-back album ideal for a walk or drive in almost any locale or climate.

“WHOKILL,” TUNE-YARDS: This list is dominated by artists who update sounds either from 1960s guitar pop or 1980s synth pop, but Tune-Yards deliver an album that sounds like nothing else — spotlighting distinctively powerful vocals from Merrill Garbus and a funky mash of polyrhythmic beats and original instrumentation.

“HELPLESSNESS BLUES,” FLEET FOXES: “Fleet Foxes stay true to sun-dappled acoustic guitars and dewy choirboy harmonies, adding 1960s British psych-folk nuances and even a flurry of free-jazz skronk.” (Pitchfork)

“WOUNDED RHYMES,” LYKKE LI: “A bit of Kate Bush's alien whine, a pinch of Bat for Lashes smoke-screen atmospherics, even a hint of fellow Swedish pop sensation Robyn's sassy croon.” (Paste Magazine)

“STRANGE MERCY,” ST. VINCENT: The striking Annie Clark blends her sweet, breathy vocals with her eclectic guitar theatrics on a third album of “byzantine baroque-pop ... perfecting her razor-edged balance between lullaby swoon and lunatic freak-out” (A.V. Club).

“EYE CONTACT,” GANG GANG DANCE: A dark, danceable stew of “world music, sci-fi mysticism, goth, incense and synthesizers, keening and cooing” (New York Magazine).

“COLLAPSE INTO NOW,” R.E.M.: Their swan song flirts treacherously close with self-parody early and often but sends fans off with what sounds more like an R.E.M. album than any of their efforts since drummer Bill Berry's departure.

— Brian Thornton, New York Times Regional Media Group, Florida

TV PICKS

“ONCE UPON A TIME”: Fantasy plunks fairy tale characters into Storybook, Maine, where they think they're normal people. ABC, 8 p.m. Sunday

“ROCKET CITY REDNECKS”: Alabama rednecks/rocket scientists solve challenges facing military and NASA with stuff scrounged from junk yards and garages. National Geographic, 9 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

“EUREKA CHRISTMAS SPECIAL”: Everyone in this IQ-heavy town takes on cartoon form, from claymation to anime. Upcoming season is its last. SyFy, not on schedule yet.

“MYTHBUSTERS”: Jamie and Adam test popular “myths” to see if they stand up scientifically; often ends with an explosion. Discovery Channel favorite since 2003.

“HALLOWEEN WARS”: Competition pits teams of a baker, candymaker and pumpkin carver to form ghoulish edible creations using all three mediums. Food Channel, hopefully new a “War” breaks out next Halloween.

“FACE OFF”: Competition explores special effects make-up — for money and fame, of course. Season 2 debuts 10 p.m. Jan. 11 on SyFy.

CASEY ANTHONY TRIAL: It kept the country spellbound. The Orlando mother was acquitted of her daughter's death, causing a national uproar.

“GLEE”: Mesmerizing music, but don't these kids attend other classes? And what'll the show do next fall after most of them graduate in June? Fox, 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“DR. WHO”: Long-running British series last season brought the Doctor and companions to America — to the Oval Office, no less. New season begins in spring. BBC America.

“101 GADGETS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD”: Popular Mechanics editors rank stuff from duct tape to TV that made a difference. The top gadget? The smartphone. History Channel.

— Rick Allen, staff writer

MEMORABLE THEATRICAL MOMENTS

Looking back at memorable moments from the past theater season brings to mind a wealth of shows. Here are those that made my “A” list.

“RENT”: This amazed me. I saw the original production in New York City and later, the national touring company. In both instances, I thought “Rent” was just noise and chaos. Imagine, then, my surprise when the Gainesville Community Playhouse put on what I considered a perfect show. What stands out from that production is the love story between Angel, a transvestite (Steven Butler), and Collins (Kevin Anderson,) his lover. When Collins carried Angel's lifeless body so tenderly across the stage, I broke down and cried as did others in the audience.

“A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL”: Tears already had been shed when the GCP performed Horton Foote's “A Trip to Bountiful.” This play about an old woman, who yearned to return to her childhood home, was graced by the performance of Jennie Stringfellow. In case I've never admitted this publicly before, here goes: I love Jennie Stringfellow! For 40 years she has illuminated the GCP stage. “...Bountiful” may be her crowning achievement as she was able to touch each of us with our basic need to return to the place where we were formed, nurtured, loved, grew to adulthood, and ultimately left. Thomas Wolfe said, “You can't go home again,” but Jennie Stringfellow could, and, for a few fleeting moments of beautiful theater, did.

“BOEING BOEING”: This show that made us laugh in record-setting numbers opened The Hippodrome's 2010-11 season. It's one of those wonderfully concocted farces about a devilishly clever man who rotates love affairs with three airline hostesses. He involves a friend in his shenanigans and the entire zany concoction threatens to fall splat on the curvaceous rumps of the hostesses. Remembering these women, dressed in Marilyn Wall's revealing, skimpy, altogether funny uniforms, still makes me laugh.

“END DAYS”: I fell in love with The Hipp's “End Days” by Debora Zoe Laufer. Sara Morsey gave one of her memorable performances in that play as Sylvia, a wife and mother, waiting for the end of the world to come. This is a play in which Jesus, himself, is seen talking to Sylvia, and Stephen Hawking, the physicist, talks to her daughter. When the whole family assembled in the living room waiting for the end of the world, I actually hoped it would happen so that Sylvia wouldn't be disappointed. “End Days” was a lovely experience in learning to accept who we are in the here and now.

“THE 39 STEPS”: A stellar favorite is The Hipp's “The 39 Steps,” based loosely on the Alfred Hitchcock movie. The show was a funny, clever, intricately designed mystery-romance, and it starred Ric Rose as a clown. Brace yourselves for another admission: I love Ric Rose!

“THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE”: I had no idea what to expect of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which made its debut at the GCP and immediately won my heart. In this musical, six kids who are not popular with the school's in-group, compete in a spelling contest, spelling words like lachrymose and phylactery. The kids were played by adults who somehow managed to make us believe they were children. I believed them and loved them enough to want to take them home with me and apply for immediate adoption.

“ANYTHING GOES”: Leannis Maxwell gave us memorable moments playing Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes” at the GCP. I thought, “Finally: a performer who can sing Cole Porter's music and enunciate his lyrics without any stereotypical belting. How very “De-Lovely!”

“45 SECONDS FROM BROADWAY”: The GCP opened it 2010-11 season with this comedy by Neil Simon. It was a memorable show, especially, because it brought Yvonne Dell back to the stage. Yvonne had been a star of magnitude at the GCP for more than 40 years. She was a diva in every sense of the word and she got to play one again as Rayleen in “45 Seconds from Broadway.” It was a delight to see this imperious actress take command of the stage again, flaunting her great talent and making audiences laugh. It was to be her final performance as the memorable local actress died a few weeks ago. Her last appearance on stage will be treasured all the more among the theater season's most memorable moments.

— Arline Greer, Sun theater critic

TOP INSPIRATIONAL MOMENTS

Make no mistake, the best way to look at 2011 is in the rear-view mirror. From earthquakes, floods and tornadoes to foreclosures, sex abuse scandals and Herman Cain, this has been a year to forget.

But even among the darkest clouds, inspirational people and events managed to shine through.

Here are just a few items that reminded us that the human spirit is still alive.

1. TROOPS RETURN: The last U.S. troops left Iraq in December. No matter what your views are about this war, the men and women called to service performed their duties with unmatched courage and professionalism. And no one can argue with the joy the warriors and their families felt in recent days when they crossed the border and headed home, ending eight years of bloodshed. That the last soldiers made it home in time for the holidays was a special gift unto itself.

2. ARAB SPRING: When 26-year-old student Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia in frustration over the lack of employment opportunities, he was expressing the anguish felt by countless people around the world. He also set in motion the popular uprising known as the Arab Spring that swept through the Middle East, taking down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. From Syria to Yemen, tens of thousands of people continue to face batons and bullets as they fight for basic human rights.

3. TORNADOES RESPONSE: This year brought the worst tornado period in U.S. history, with a record 1,560 confirmed tornadoes that caused 552 deaths. On April 27 alone, 208 tornadoes ripped apart Midwestern and Southern states. The good news? From around the country, help and support flowed to the devastated communities. Even towns that were flattened sent relief teams and supplies to neighbors who were worse off. And who was really surprised by this incredible generosity and caring?

4. VALIANT NUCLEAR WORKERS: Amid the horror of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear crisis in Japan, there were countless scenes of heroism. None, perhaps, compared to the 50 workers who volunteered to stay on at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility to try to prevent a complete meltdown. Despite using state-of-the-art safety equipment, the workers were exposed to high levels of radiation for weeks, potentially sacrificing their lives to save thousands of their neighbors.

5. SPIRIT OF GAINESVILLE WINNERS: The Gainesville Sun this year honored six community leaders with its inaugural Spirit of Gainesville awards recognizing exemplary contributions to the community. The winners all have made Gainesville and Alachua County better through their efforts while inspiring others to do the same. The inaugural winners: Rhonda Wilson, a Duval Elementary teacher and Star Center Theatre director; Jim Stringfellow Sr., retired owner of Stringfellow Supply; Andy Sherrard and Danny Stevens, owners of O2BKids; Dr. Nancy Hardt, UF College of Medicine director of Health Disparities & Service Learning Programs; Ryland Wagner, Gainesville High School wrestling coach.

6. “LAYAWAY ANGELS”: The holiday shopping season kicked off with reports of people being pepper sprayed in a Black Friday tussle over a TV at Wal-mart. The madness soon gave way to generosity. Around the country, people dubbed “layaway angels'' began showing up at Kmarts to anonymously pay off layaway accounts to help strangers who couldn't afford their families' Christmas gifts. The trend arrived in Gainesville, where more than 25 people at the Kmart on Northwest 76th Boulevard lined up to play secret Santa.

7. “SHOP-WITH-A-COP” STUDENTS: Sure, they've done it for seven years, but the Shop-With-A-Cop event at Wal-mart in Starke may never have been more poignant than this year. As a sign of the recession, many of the 155 elementary school students used the $100 they were given to buy items for other people. One child bought roses for his mother. And we challenge you to look at the picture of FHP District Lt. Kevin Blom and 5-year-old Star Norsworthy of Starke and say who is the bigger kid or having the most fun.

8. STUDENT SAMARITAN: The 19-year-old UF freshman could easily have just driven by when she saw a young woman stumbling along Fraternity Row around 2 a.m. Nov. 29 with a man in pursuit. But something didn't seem right. So she turned around and pulled alongside the intoxicated woman. She got her into her car and drove the 20-year-old to the ER at Shands at UF. She then talked her into staying at the hospital and waited with her until police arrived and determined that she had been sexually assaulted.

9.BOSTON FIREFIGHTER: When Boston firefighters arrived at a burning three-story apartment building on Oct. 16, people were hanging on the ledges trying to escape the roaring flames. A grandmother dangled her 6-year-old grandson out the window by one hand but told firefighters she couldn't hold on until ladders arrived. Fire Lt. Glenn McGillivray told her to drop Xavier from the third floor, and he promised he would catch him. She did, and he did, too. The burly firefighter said he was no hero. Xavier's grandmother, who was rescued by firefighters on a ladder, would strongly disagree.

10. SEPT. 11 MEMORIAL: Ten years after terrorists brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, the 9/11 Memorial opened in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11. The stunningly beautiful tribute to the thousands who died in the attack stands as an example of what Americans can do when they set aside their differences and work together for the common good.

— Greg Hamilton, staff writer

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