Home Local Daywatch Special Edition: Chicago in the new millennium

Daywatch Special Edition: Chicago in the new millennium

by staff

Good morning, Chicago.

When 9/11 happened, it was hard to imagine anything could eclipse its impact. Yet here we are, living through year three of a global pandemic, monumental shifts in law at the nation’s highest court and televised hearings of an insurrection at the Capitol. Every time we think we’re covering the story of the century, life hands us another.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the Chicago Tribune’s first 175 years. While this special anniversary edition of Daywatch ends today, sign up for our Vintage Tribune newsletter, delivered weekly to your inbox, for more stories of Chicago’s past, and check out our newly-published Chicago history timeline here.


While it’s been fun to look back at how the Tribune covered the city through the years, we hope you’ll keep looking forward with us too. Not a subscriber yet? Make sure to sign up here. Because we’ve got a lot more stories to share with you.

— Jocelyn Allison, Marianne Mather and Kori Rumore


More anniversary coverage | Vintage Voices | Pulitzer Prizes | Famous front pages | Vintage Tribune newsletter | 175th merchandise

The horror came early in the morning on Sept. 11, 2001, when just a few people had arrived to work at Tribune Tower, writes Rick Kogan. What happened next is a vivid memory for most of us. But that defining event of the 21st century would later be rivaled by another — a global pandemic still unfolding.

A pall of smoke, dust and sadness settled over lower Manhattan at nightfall Sept. 11, 2001, as rescue workers, police and firefighters pressed their desperate search for survivors of the worst terrorist attack in United States history, a coordinated airborne assault that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center and left a portion of the Pentagon in smoking ruins.

Barclays Bank, a venerable British investment house, once said cities build their tallest structures on the eve of their decline, writes Ron Grossman. As downtown Chicago struggles to recover from the ongoing global pandemic, how accurately does that algorithm measure the building still known to many as Sears Tower and the city it looks down upon?


The death toll from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois topped 33,000 at the two-year mark and is still climbing. With each new variant and scientific breakthrough, risk calculations have changed. Now, for the younger and boosted, risks of dying from COVID-19 may be less than the risk of dying in a traffic crash, while for those older and unvaccinated, the risks may be exponentially higher.

Voters turned out in extraordinary numbers in the 2008 presidential election, sensing a historic moment and stung by economic crisis. Barack Obama supporters, many of them holding flags, watched returns roll in on giant television screens in Grant Park and roared every time another state was called for their candidate. When networks called the election at 10 p.m., tears streamed down their faces.

During the most tumultuous 11-day span of his tenure as Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel went from backing his police chief, defending the city’s investigation of police shootings and resisting a federal civil rights investigation of his police department to abruptly backtracking on all three positions. Lori Lightfoot, the city’s first Black female mayor, would later be elected his successor in the aftermath.

The Chicago political jester who rose from life as a scrappy city kid to the state’s highest office — then was secretly taped by the FBI in a corruption probe, arrested at home before dawn, tried (twice), convicted and sentenced — and was sprung from prison more than four years early when Trump commuted his sentence.

Tears flowed across Cubs Nation after the final out, and fans responded with the world’s biggest group hug, remembering all the loved ones who could only imagine what it would be like to experience this moment of pure bliss.

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