A Year in Review: The Most Memorable Stories of 2018

Ayanna Pressley made history, the Red Sox brought home another World Series win, and we were finally able to buy recreational weed.

Des Linden

Photo via AP Images/Elise Amendola

Des Linden Wins the Boston Marathon

Never has the phrase, “Good things happen when you least expect it” been more true than it was for Des Linden on April 16. Despite treacherously cold, wet, and windy conditions, she became the first American woman in 33 years to win the Boston Marathon, breaking the tape at 2 hours and 39 minutes. She narrowly missed the podium the year before, coming in fourth place. She wasn’t impervious to the horrible weather, though, admitting she thought of dropping out at mile six. She also slowed early on in the race to make sure friend and fellow athlete Shalane Flanagan was okay, after stopping for a break—shows what true sportsmanship and camaraderie can do for your morale. To celebrate her triumphant win, the California native, partial to whiskey and coffee, opted for a champagne toast…out of her shoe. She said it tasted like sweet, sweet victory, but perhaps we’ll just take her word for it.

Photo via AP/Mary Schwalm

Gas Explosions Rock Merrimack Valley

It was something out of a nightmare: gas explosions and house fires, randomly breaking out like something out of a movie. For residents of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, they became a very brutal reality. Beginning at 4:15 p.m. on September 13, a string of explosions and fires ignited in the area, killing one person and injuring over two dozen. A year later, Merrimack Valley is still recovering and looking for answers. Investigations eventually pointed to a faulty procedure by Columbia Gas company, causing over-pressurized gas mains. Gas service for approximately 8,000 residents was shut off to avoid any further catastrophe and all were asked to evacuate. The disaster led to a $143 million class-action settlement by Columbia Gas and NiSource, its parent company. Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera told the Globe in September money and settlements weren’t enough, and that Columbia Gas had failed in response to the crisis. Repairs and reconstruction may be underway, but the psychological and emotional toll the events had on residents of the area remains.

Notorious James “Whitey” Bulger Dies in a West Virginia Prison

It was hard to imagine the Whitey Bulger era ever ending, but after a trial that saw the ex-mobster indicted for nineteen murders and convicted for eleven, he was killed in a West Virginia prison on October 30, 2018 at 89. As in so many other aspects of his life, the circumstances were suspicious—he had been abruptly transferred to a new prison, and it’s not clear why the famous ailing mobster was alone long enough to be attacked. His life, complicated and unnerving, inspired countless books and movies, and his death seems likely to inspire even more—journalists Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge, who have a long history of writing about Boston subjects, believe there are still more stories to be told about the man. They want to uncover what really happened at the time of his death, where all his money has gone, and they hope to fill in some of the holes of his pursuit and capture. If you’re really fascinated by the dark and twisted, you can even live in his “Haunty” house—now on the market—but like its former owner’s dynasty, it may be crumbling here shortly.

Cape Cod Mourns the Loss of Arthur Medici after First Fatal Shark Attack in 80 Years

Shark sightings continue to be a very real and very threatening danger off the waters of Cape Cod. As the number of great whites swimming in the coastal waters increases, the question of whether or not to dip much more than your toes in the Atlantic becomes an ever more looming one. Never has that question been more heavily weighed than after the death of Arthur Medici on September 14. While surfing off the coast of Wellfleet, the 26-year-old Medici was killed in a shark attack. The tragic event has brought about much conversation about what to do in the future to prevent tragedies like this from happening, because clearly, our grey finned guests aren’t going anywhere. Some, like Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty Jr., call for the “all-out destruction of great whites.” Others, like the Atlantic Shark Conservancy’s Cynthia Wigren, believe “awareness and understanding” are the keys to prevention. One thing’s for certain: Take caution when entering the water. And remember, we share this world with many other creatures who call this planet home.

New England Treatment Access medical marijuana dispensary, in Northampton, Mass | photo via AP/Steven Senne

The First Recreational Pot Shops Are Cleared to Open

On December 15, 2016 voters in Massachusetts chose to legalize weed. But it wasn’t until two years later that those looking to buy recreational marijuana were able to do so. The dispensaries that made history included Cultivate in Leicester and New England Treatment Access in Northampton. Medical marijuana had been available for purchase since 2012, so this marked a huge moment in the legal pot movement. The first customers were two veterans in both cities. Stephen Mandile, a 41-year-old Iraq veteran, was first in line at Cultivate and the mayor of Northampton, David Narkewicz, an Air Force veteran, was first in line at New England Treatment Access. Since then, NETA opened a location in Brookline in March of 2019 and the licensing process to get an operating dispensary in Boston received an overhaul to better serve minority entrepreneurs.

Ayanna Pressley primary

Photo via AP /Steven Senne

Ayanna Pressley Defeats Michael Capuano in the Democratic Primary

In a decisive double digit win, Ayanna Pressley set out on a path to making history on September 4 in the Democratic primary battle, defeating long-term incumbent Michael Capuano, before going on to an unopposed general election victory in November. Bringing a fresh perspective and zealous drive to instill change, she offered a new vision for what politics in Massachusetts could be like. At one point in the election, polling showed Capuano with a hefty 13 point lead, but it appeared younger voters showed up for Pressley, as did activists, and her strong list of endorsements, from Attorney General Maura Healy and in the pages of the Boston Globe and Boston Herald helped drive her to victory. Pressley was the first black woman elected to Boston’s City Council in 2009, and she became the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress in 2018.

A portrait of Aly Raisman

Photo via AP/Jae C. Hong

Aly Raisman Delivers Passionate Victim Impact Statement

“You do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry.” Aly Raisman’s words still have resonance, after she further ignited the #MeToo era on January 19 during a court hearing in front of the man who had abused her, and countless others. The Needham native came forward with her own story, and criticized the action taken by U.S.A. Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, saying they should have done better. Raisman is now a beacon of hope for others. The activist and Olympian isn’t shy about sticking up for what she believes in, and her humble and charismatic outlook on life keep her firmly grounded in her purpose—paving the way for many others to live more authentically.

Voters Protect the Rights of Trans Gender People

On November 7, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly reaffirmed the rights of transgender people in the state. The vote upheld a 2016 state law that banned discrimination of trans people in public places such as restaurants, bars, and athletic facilities. While this matter wasn’t as divisive as a nurse staffing ballot question that split voters, it still managed to get some pick up amongst third party groups looking to oppose the matter from the No on 3 Campaign. More representative of the pulse here in the Commonwealth though, which was the first state to legalize gay marriage back in 2004, was a video released in early November. The clip showed a Bostonian sitting at a bar, who proclaims, “Yeah, we’re Massholes. But we’re not assholes,” and encouraged voters to protect the rights of trans residents. The video was a huge hit, and voters seem to have taken it to heart.

Screenshots via Chris Haynes and Jason Triplett

Drag Elsa Saves the Day During a March Nor’easter

Elsa and Anna of Arendelle may have made a resurgence this year in the sequel of the blockbuster hit Frozen, but it was a different kind of Elsa that saved the day back in March of 2018. During the string of nor’easters that slammed the Hub in early spring, one very generous man dressed in a Princess Elsa costume with a frosty white wig on braved the cold to help rescue a Boston Police Department vehicle from a snowbank. Thanks to patrons eating from the warmth of the Gallows in the South End, there’s even a video to prove it, which obviously went viral on just about everything. The video shows the man pushing the truck out of the snow, hiking up the dress (keeping it in great condition), before curtsying to the crowd as the truck drives off into the flurries. In light of the good nature Drag Elsa brought on that blustery March day, we could all serve to remember how a good attitude and serving others goes a long way when the snow just seems too much to bear anymore. Or, just let it go. The lessons here are endless.

Photo via AP/David J. Phillip

Red Sox Win the World Series

We can’t talk about one year in Boston without talking about a sports team. It’s just not possible. And 2018 was a big one for our beloved Red Sox. For the fourth time in 15 seasons, the Red Sox won the World Series after a dominant postseason showing. We basked in sweet victory over the Yankees, crushed the Houston Astros, and went on to defeat the Dodgers in five. It was fun. It was lively. And crowds of Bostonians showed up to celebrate as soon as Chris Sale struck out the last batter. Good times truly never seemed so good. You have to give it to the other Boston sports teams, too. Patriots went on to bring home another Vince Lombardi trophy, the Celtics managed to come in second in the Eastern Conference, and the Bruins came this close to hoisting the Stanley Cup. One thing’s for certain: The Red Sox definitely managed to set the appropriate tone for the 2018-19 sports seasons.

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