There were rumblings before the fall of 2008.

The downfalls of Countrywide, Bear Stearns, and IndyMac made us ooh and aah. And curse.

But those opening acts couldn't prepare us for the shock of the headliner. Over the course of a few weeks, our entire financial system was on the precipice of ... of what, we're still not sure.

The Grim Reaper took bank after bank and sneered "Who's next?" each time. Troubled non-banks ironically converted to banks to gain access to government aid. The Treasury and Fed were put in the uncomfortable position of bailing water instead of steering the ship. We worried about the effects of bailouts, but we worried equally as much about the effects of no bailouts. Faith in the markets was shaken, as evidenced by the insane day-to-day price volatility and the news flash that short-term Treasury rates actually went negative ... yes, as a whole, we were paying the government money to hold our savings because we distrusted every other investment vehicle that much.

Look what happened in just over a month:  

  • Sept. 7, 2008 -- Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) go into conservatorship on a Sunday night, starting the "Weekend at Bernanke's" series.
  • Sept. 14, 2008 -- Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) announces it's rescuing Merrill Lynch, adding it into the lifeboat with Countrywide.
  • Sept. 15, 2008 -- That same weekend, the government draws the line and refuses to bail out Lehman Brothers, effectively forcing it into bankruptcy.
  • Sept. 16, 2008 -- The next day, the government rescues AIG (NYSE:AIG).
  • Sept. 25, 2008JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) buys a failed Washington Mutual from the FDIC. Make room in the JPMorgan lifeboat, Bear Stearns.
  • Oct. 3, 2008 -- Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) wins a battle with Citigroup (NYSE:C) for the honor of rescuing Wachovia.
  • Oct. 14, 2008 -- The $700 billion TARP program is rolled out, starting with a capital injection into the nine largest U.S. banks.

As we come up on all these one-year anniversaries, we Fools are looking back and taking stock. Bookmark this page and check back in over the next month or so as we put everything in perspective, debate the winners and losers, and discuss today's opportunities.

We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, either on this article or in the articles listed below.

Looking Back

The Government's Role

Buy or Sell?