September marked the start of the new school year, with the return of face-to-face learning welcomed by many. With pupils allowed to mix again and the success of the vaccination roll-out, there was hope that this academic year would be one step closer to normal than the last.
Despite the abundance of vaccines, there were shortages in other areas which triggered bleak predictions for the months ahead.
The so-called ‘energy crisis’ baffled us all, but the harrowing question whether people would be choosing between ‘heating or eating’ this winter due to increased energy prices was made all the more real when energy companies began to go bust.
Rumours of petrol shortages led to panic buying causing actual petrol shortages, and the importance of another sector heavily reliant on EU nationals was brought to the forefront, as the shortage of HGV drivers began to impact life in more ways than one.
Unfortunately the shortages and strains were made all the more difficult for the thousands across Portsmouth who are reliant on Universal Credit, as September was the last month people would benefit from the £20 uplift which was brought in at the beginning of the pandemic.
However the city had reasons to be proud, as the launch of a world first took place in Old Portsmouth with Subsea Craft trialling its VICTA diver delivery unit, a leader in maritime technology with the potential to change the future of military missions.
As we welcomed one vessel we said farewell to another, as Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady, the biggest ever ship to dock in Portsmouth, set sail for New York after being based in the city for the summer. People gathered to wave goodbye to the 110,000-tonne liner as it sailed past the Spinnaker Tower, which glowed red to mark the occasion.
The News had a reason to celebrate as it welcomed a new cohort of young reporters to the team, showing its commitment to providing young people with employment. Two reporters joined as apprentices and one joined as part of the government’s Kickstart scheme.
There were also celebrations in Portchester as it was announced that Olympic BMX champion Declan Brooks would be awarded as a Citizen of Honour after bringing back a gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics.
Declan wasn’t the only famous face in Portsmouth in September as shoppers in Commercial Road and Gunwharf Quays were treated to a surprise visit from Stephen Mulhern, who was filming his ITV game show ‘In For a Penny’ and dished out cash prizes to unsuspecting members of the public who took part in his challenges.
September always brings the sombre occasion of the 9/11 anniversary, and this year was a milestone 20 years since the tragedy. A remembrance service took place in Southsea, as the community gathered to commemorate the occasion.
Another tragic event which brought the people of Portsmouth together was the heartbreaking death of the brave Sophie Fairall, aged 10 from Stubbington, who passed away surrounded by her family after fighting cancer.
Tributes poured in from across the country, not only praising Sophie’s courage and positivity but also her selfless fundraising for children’s cancer charity Alice’s Arc. A minute’s applause took place at Fratton Park to remember Sophie and to raise awareness for the fundraiser, which is still receiving donations and has raised more than £80,000 for the charity.
As we reflect on the events of September we spare a thought for Sophie and her family. Sophie’s spirit will forever live on within our community, and we could all learn from her positivity, selflessness and strength to keep fighting no matter how difficult things get.