2017 in perspective: A year to remember

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2017 was a year to remember, and we don’t just mean the weather — although the past few days have had us considering adding snow to the Top 10 list!

Nor do we mean the world of politics, as topsy-turvy as that has been. You can read about that anywhere, and we suspect most of our readers would prefer to forget the turmoil in D.C. anyway.

Instead, over the past few days and continuing tomorrow, the Inter Lake has been revisiting some of the top local stories of the year. It’s a totally subjective process, and everyone can make their own lists, but we think our readers will agree that our stories reflect “A Year to Remember,” as the series is called.

First out of the gate was the loss of Sperry Chalet to the Sprague Fire. This Glacier Park landmark had helped shaped the outdoors experiences of generations of backcountry hikers. When word came that it was destroyed, it was almost like losing a family member.

The pictures of the rock shell of the building still standing were staggering, but they also showed the framework of a possible restoration of the historic chalet. The Park Service and its private partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy, will work together to try to save the chalet for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.

On Friday, we wrote about the amazing saga of how the Dark Overlords hacking group targeted the Columbia Falls School District with extortion threats and eventually shut down all the schools in Flathead County for three days.

Saturday, the “year to remember” got much more personal as Ashley Gilbert recounted her miracle story to reporter Mackenzie Reiss. Gilbert suffered “internal decapitation” while snowmobiling with her boyfriend last January. She had a 5 percent chance of recovery, and made the most of it, as she is today not just a survivor, but someone who embraces life and intends to make the most of it.

In today’s paper, we talk to a survivor of the deck collapse at a camp on Flathead Lake. She was one of 54 people injured in the collapse, which happened at a memorial service for a local firefighter. Elaine Snyder was among the most critically injured, but she has fought through the pain and the physical therapy with one goal in sight: “I want to be normal.”

Fire played a role in many lives this year, with wildfires in Northwest Montana forcing numerous evacuations and destroying homes as well. Features Editor Lynnette Hintze talked to one fire survivor about her ordeal, but Jerri Swenson’s fire started in her chimney, not in a forest. Either way, she learned the hard way just how devastating it is to start over when so much of your material life goes up in smoke. Look for that story on Monday.

We hope that revisiting some of the major stories of 2017 will help put the hardships and challenges we sometimes face into perspective. Let’s all make the most of the new year.

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