This was the year that showed people that while the world crawled — and continues to crawl — its way back to “normal,” things may be forever changed.
A national divide over politics and COVID-19 mitigation measures made 2021 feel like a continuation of 2020, but with its own new set of highs and lows.
Out of our control, tornadoes ripped through the Chicago suburbs, while issues that have long plagued the city remain: gun violence, structural inequities, racial injustices — all underscored by the Delta variant and the emergence of Omicron.
And despite the lows, several silver linings appeared: businesses and restaurants reopened, music festivals including Lollapalooza and Pitchfork returned and the Chicago Sky brought home the city’s first WNBA championship.
And Lake Shore Drive is now Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive, the result of a long effort to rename the iconic roadway after the Black man who was the city’s first permanent, non-indigenous settler.
Throughout it all, Sun-Times visual journalists bore witness to the changing world.
See 2021 through their eyes.
A masked festival-goer stands among thousands of unmasked people during Mick Jenkins’ show on the second day of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Friday afternoon, July 30, 2021.
Dozens of protesters march down the Magnificent Mile on the evening of Thursday, April 15, 2021 after the city of Chicago released videos of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer. Toledo was shot March 29 in an alley west of the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue in Little Village.
Chicago police officers leave flowers at a memorial for Officer Ella French at South Bell Avenue and West 63rd Street, Monday afternoon, Aug. 9, 2021. French had been fatally shot and her partner critically wounded during a traffic stop two days earlier near that intersection in the West Englewood neighborhood.
Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, the first person to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Chicago, gets her 2nd and final dose of the vaccination at Norwegian American Hospital on the West Side, Tuesday morning, Jan. 5, 2021.
Activist Troy Gaston (in yellow-green safety vest), shouts at Chicago police officers during a protest in the Loop against the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021. Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of recklessly endangering the safety of others after he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz during the 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wis. against the shooting of Jacob Blake in that city in August 2020.
Edith Renfrow Smith, granddaughter of slaves, was the first Black woman to graduate from Grinnell College in Iowa. She celebrated her 107th birthday in 2021. Here, she shows a photo of her grandmother’s family from the 1800’s at her Ravenswood neighborhood home on Friday afternoon, June 18, 2021.
Enzo Garcia, 6 (left), holds the hand of his 9-year-old brother, Dante Garcia, while a medical assistant at Esperanza Health Centers administers a dose of the the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the South Side vaccination site, Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 4, 2021.
Arlinda Reed tears up as her husband speaks during a rally against police brutality — following the Chicago police shooting of Adam Toledo and the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minnesota — at Daley Plaza, Saturday afternoon, April 24, 2021.
Dozens of volunteers help clean up a demolished home on Princeton Circle near Ranchview Drive in Naperville after a tornado ripped through the western suburbs overnight, Monday afternoon, June 21, 2021.
Pamela Redd with a photo of her brother Carl Redd, a 62-year-old former appliance maintenance repairman from Auburn Gresham who died from complications of COVID-19. Pamela Redd was photographed at her home in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon, March 10, 2021.
Chicago police investigate a mass shooting that killed Nyoka Bowie, 37, and wounded 10 other people in the 6300 block of South Artesian Avenue in Marquette Park on Sunday night, June 27, 2021. Less than two hours earlier in South Shore, another shooting left 23-year-old Kristina Grimes dead and five other people wounded.
First Lady Jill Biden joined Gov. J.B. Pritzker (center) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month and visit a horticulture classroom during a tour of Arturo Velasquez Institute in Little Village, Wednesday morning, Oct. 13, 2021.
Drivers travel on South Lake Shore Drive near East 31st Street on Tuesday afternoon, May 4, 2021. In June, the Chicago City Council voted 33-15 to rename the roadway to honor Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the Black man of Haitian descent who was the city’s first non-indigenous settler. In a compromise, the Outer Drive officially is now Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
Minerva Arzuaga is comforted during a prayer at a memorial on Thursday afternoon, June 24, 2021 for her son, 24-year-old Gyovanni Arzuaga. He had been shot to death June 19 along with his partner, Yasmin Perez, 25, in the 3300 block of West Division Street in Humboldt Park.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot exchanges heated words with Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Wednesday morning, June 23, 2021.
Hundreds of people attend a rally in Chinatown to protest anti-Asian violence, Saturday afternoon, March 27, 2021. The rally happened in the wake of a rise in anti-Asian hate incidents and the shooting in Georgia where a white man killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.
Private 1st Class Anthony Cook, with the U.S. Army Reserves, pays his respects at a plot for Union Civil War Soldiers at Rosehill Cemetery on the North Side, Monday afternoon, May 31, 2021.
A preschool student gets his temperature checked as he walks into Dawes Elementary School, 3810 W. 81st Pl., on the Southwest Side, Monday morning, Jan. 11, 2021. It was the first day of optional in-person learning for preschoolers and special education students with complex disabilities in Chicago Public Schools.
Fireworks explode over the Shedd Aquarium during Chicago’s Fourth of July fireworks display, at the Lakefront near the Museum Campus, on Saturday night, July 3, 2021.
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) takes a seat after apologizing to the Chicago City Council during a meeting at City Hall, Tuesday morning, Sept. 14, 2021. A series of Gardiner’s profane, threatening and misogynistic text messages had been leaked earlier that month.
Nancy Salas-Herrera was among the participants in the 10th annual Back of the Yards Dia de los Muertos procession in the Southwest Side neighborhood, Saturday morning, October 23, 2021. The procession started at West 51st Street and South Elizabeth Street and ended with a display of “ofrendas” or altars, food and supplies distribution, dancing and a blessing ceremony by Aztec dancers outside The Plant at 1400 W. 46th St.
The Chicago Sky players celebrate their WNBA championship during a rally at Pritzker Pavilion, Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2021.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her wife, First Lady Amy Eshleman, celebrate Pride Month 2021 outside City Hall in the Loop, Thursday afternoon, June 3, 2021.
The casket of Timuel Black, a 102-year-old historian and activist, is carried out after funeral services at First Unitarian Church of Chicago in Hyde Park, Friday afternoon, Oct. 22, 2021.
Enrique Mazzola, music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, shown at the Civic Opera House on Monday afternoon, Aug. 30, 2021.
A man at Riot Fest in Douglass Park waits for Vic Mensa to perform on Day 3 of the music festival, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.
A group of children and other onlookers watch as Chicago police investigate in the 6400 block of South King Drive, where 31-year-old King Collier was killed in a drive-by shooting in Parkway Gardens, Friday evening, June 18, 2021.
Yaeji performs on day one of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, Friday afternoon, Sept. 10, 2021.
Hundreds of Chicago police officers and other law enforcement officers gather outside St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel during the funeral for Officer Ella French, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. French was fatally shot and her partner was critically wounded while in the line of duty on Aug. 7 in West Englewood.
Kinh Tang and Nga Nguyen, parents of Tommy Tang, who just graduated from the Chicago Fire Department, kiss their grandchild Thea Tang after the graduation ceremony for candidate firefighters and EMTs at the Aon Grand Ballroom in Navy Pier, Thursday morning, October 28, 2021.
More than 200 family, friends and community residents gather for a vigil for 70-year-old Yvonne Ruzich outside Baltimore Food & Liquor Store in Hegewisch, Monday evening, Aug. 16, 2021, after Ruzich was shot and killed earlier that day. Ruzich — known by family as “Grandma Jo” — was parked outside the store where she worked when police said two gunmen approached her car and started shooting.
Piping plover Monty walks near the area sectioned off for the endangered species on Montrose Beach on Wednesday morning, April 28, 2021.
Members of the Chicago Fire Department bow their heads in prayer during a ceremony at Daley Plaza on Sept. 11, 2021 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Officials investigate after an off-duty Chicago police officer was shot in his lower abdomen in the 8900 block of South Stony Island Avenue in Calumet Heights on Monday afternoon, March 15, 2021. The 32-year-old officer was in his personal vehicle, stopped at a traffic light at 89th Street and Stony Island Avenue, when two gunmen came up and fired into his vehicle, police said.
Demonstrators chant, hold signs and rally as they march around the Loop, protesting the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., Friday night, Nov. 19, 2021. Asserting self-defense, Rittenhouse, who killed two people and injured another during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha last year, was acquitted of all charges.
The kitchen crew makes paczki dough at Delightful Pastries bakery, 5927 W. Lawrence Ave. on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.
Rev. Michael Pfleger celebrates Mass at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham on Sunday, June 6, 2021. It was the first time since January 2021 that Rev. Pfleger had celebrated Mass. He was allowed to return to the pulpit after he was reinstated as senior pastor at St. Sabina. The Archdiocese of Chicago cleared Rev. Pfleger to return to the South Side church after an internal probe into decades-old allegations of sexual abuse against minors.
A Chicago police officer helps pour soda into cups for children standing with their mother outside a crime scene in the 6400 block of South Cicero Avenue on Monday evening, May 24, 2021. Police said a 28-year-old man had been shot in the head and critically wounded at that location during a struggle with a carjacker in West Lawn.
Jennifer Evans stands beside her car after it was damaged when a building at 748 W. 91st St. in Brainerd collapsed under the weight of heavy snow,, Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 16, 2021.
Former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett raises his fist as he walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Thursday morning, Dec. 2, 2021. The 39-year-old actor and singer was charged with lying to Chicago police in 2019 when he claimed he was the victim of a racist and anti-gay attack near his Streeterville apartment.
The Chicago skyline seen from the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary on the North Side, Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021.
An indigenous dance troupe prays during a peace walk and memorial on Sunday, April 18, 2021 at the site where 13-year-old Adam Toledo died in an alley near West 24th Street and South Sawyer Avenue. Toledo, 13, was shot to death by a Chicago police officer on March 29 in that Little Village neighborhood alley.
Micah Kronlokken, 34, who doesn’t take public transit amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, walks about 2 miles to his job in Rogers Park as heavy snow falls across Chicago on Monday morning, Feb. 15, 2021.
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot sit with kids competing in the “Fastest Kids in Chicago” final at the Gately Park Indoor Track and Field complex, 10201 S. Cottage Grove Ave. in Roseland, Saturday morning, July 10, 2021.
A jogger gets hit with a high wave on the Lakefront Trail near West Fullerton Avenue on the North Side, Monday afternoon, Oct. 25, 2021.
Latoya Smith, sister of Verndell Smith, comforts her 7-year-old daughter, Zahana Hogan, during a vigil at Ultimate Threat Dance Organization’s studio, Thursday evening, May 20, 2021. Verndell Smith, founder of the dance studio, whose motto was, “Stop shooting and start dancing,” was shot and killed late Wednesday morning.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file
Lily Aranda (left), who teaches pre-school students at McCormick Elementary School and was locked out of her virtual classroom for refusing to return to in-person teaching, and her co-teacher Karen Sanchez sit outside Corkery Elementary School in Little Village, Wednesday morning, Jan. 20, 2021. Educators taught classes outside the school to protest Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plan due to health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Illinois’ former Speaker of the House Michael Madigan walks away from reporters after a committee hearing Thursday morning, Feb. 25, 2021. on the Southwest Side. The hearing was to decide who will take over as state representative in the 22nd House District seat, a position held by Madigan since 1971. The committee appointed Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar. The first choice for the position, Edward Guerra Kodatt, was sworn in Sunday but resigned Wednesday.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file
Family and friends release balloons at a vigil on Wednesday afternoon, June 16, 2021, to remember the four victims of a mass shooting inside a home at 6221 S. Morgan St. in Englewood, Shermetria Williams, 19, Ratanya Aryiel Rogers, 28, Denice Mathis, 35, and Blake Lee, 35, were killed and eight others were wounded in the shooting on June 15.
The Pioneer Zephyr train exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, shown on Friday afternoon, Jan. 29, 2021. The streamlined, stainless-steel-clad train set a speed record in 1934 during a nonstop “Dawn to Dusk” run from Denver to Chicago, completing the trip in just over 13 hours. The Zephyr exhibit was refurbished while the museum was closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands rally in support of Palestine, chanting and marching around the Loop, Friday evening, May 21, 2021.
Joel Galam (left) hugs his brother Jay Galam, who just became a paramedic, during the graduation ceremony of the Chicago Fire Department’s 2021 paramedics class at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, Wednesday morning, Sept. 29, 2021.
Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, prepares Malena, a 10-year-old endangered Amur tiger, for total hip replacement surgery at Brookfield Zoo, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 27, 2021. The tiger suffered from arthritis in her left hip; the surgery was believed to be the first time a full joint replacement had been attempted on a tiger in North America, according to the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo.
Deon Williams is hugged at a vigil on Wednesday afternoon, June 16, 2021, held to remember the four victims of a mass shooting inside a home at 6221 S. Morgan St. in Englewood the day before. Shermetria Williams, 19, Ratanya Aryiel Rogers, 28, Denice Mathis, 35, and Blake Lee, 35, were killed and eight others were wounded in the shooting.
Adeline Peckler plays on what used to be railroad tracks at the Pullman National Monument on its opening day in the Far South Side neighborhood, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 4, 2021.
While heavy snowfall batters Chicago, Celine Wysgalla walks her dog Charlie on the Lakefront Trail near West Fullerton Avenue on the North Side, Monday afternoon, Feb. 15, 2021.
Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith takes a selfie with fans after the Bears beat the Detroit Lions, 24 - 14, at Soldier Field, Sunday afternoon, Oct. 3, 2021.