It was a year filled with stories that made us shed tears of sorrow, rage and joy.
There were stories of lives taken too soon, of young souls finding the strength to survive and stories that showed there may, in fact, be hope for the human race.
In the end, these are the stories that matter, stories that shine an unadulterated light on the human condition – for better or for worse – and that champion the human spirit.
This is what all these stories have in common. They remind us of the struggles, triumphs and tribulations that go hand-in-hand with the human condition. They bind us by reminding us we are all human, we all love and we all hurt.
Thus, below is a short list of stories that lit up the comments boards, that had people talking on Twitter and sharing on Facebook, all, for a brief moment in time, unknown neighbours in the human community.
These are the most heartwarming or heartwrenching stories of 2013.
1. As the full scale of the destruction being wreaked upon Alberta by the June flood was being broadcast to every corner of the continent, one tale was able to bring the story from the mathematical realm to the human level.
When stories are this vast and of such magnitude, the only way to encapsulate the degree of damage is to use figures to describe the number of those affected, the number of towns under states of emergency, or the numbers of dead or missing. And then came the story of Kevan Yeats and Momo the Cat.
Unbelievable pictures captured the moments after which Yeats’ truck was pulled under by raging flood waters, prompting him to break the back window to allow him, and his cat Momo to escape. Photos show the two friends giving all they got to reach shore.
Yeats became known the world over as the young, long-haired man who put his life on the line to save his cat. Yeats later said it was likely Momo who saved him. Had he been alone, he probably wouldn’t have left his truck and probably would’ve perished inside of it. But he forced himself out of the truck to make sure Momo was okay.
2. When Erin Chrusch wrote a Grey Cup blog for The Huffington Post Alberta. It wasn’t facts, figures or event synopsis she was providing. What she offered readers was a much more intangible series of thoughts and ideas. What she shared was an idea akin to patriotism that only Saskatchewan residents can understand but that resonates with all Canadians. More than a few readers admitted to getting misty-eyed as the Saskatchewan-born, Calgary scribe put into words what it's like to love the place most other Canadians mock, what it’s like to find beauty in what others dismiss and what it’s like to feel lonely in those sentiments even when one knows, every other Saskatchewan resident feels the same way.
3. It was a tale of incomprehensible torture against a most defenceless creature. Nero, a seven-week-old puppy was doused with a flammable liquid, lit on fire and left to die at a Saskatchewan work camp. The puppy lost both ears and his eyesight is in question but he is recovering thanks to the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society. Now, dozens of people have come forward to adopt the young dog.
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4. It was a heartbreaking story of unconditional love and ultimate sacrifice. The story of Tiara Jingling and her great-grandmother Bernice lent a face and two names to that unexplainable love people feel for their children, or great-grandchildren for that matter. Bernice was walking her six-year-old great-granddaughter to school when an SUV barreled down the road at them, as the senior and youngster crossed the street. In a split-second decision, Bernice did all she could, as a final act, to push the child out of the way of the vehicle. Bernice died shortly after. Tiara survived.
5. It was one of the most emotional displays by Edmonton Oilers’ coach Dallas Eakins and it had nothing to do with his team’s on-ice performance. Eakins fought hard to maintain his composure as he told reporters, with cameras rolling, how his young daughter had become collateral damage in a war waged by angry Oilers’ fans against the coach of the struggling Edmonton squad. The hatred the fans have been casting in his direction had now landed on his unsuspecting daughter.
6. The story of Allyson McConnell is a story of heartbreak from beginning to end. Every step of the way, the story of the young mother who tried to commit suicide by jumping off an Edmonton bridge in 2010, only to have authorities find her two young sons drowned in a bathtub in the family home, has been wrought with sadness and empathy for the star-struck toddlers. The painful story came to a conclusive end this September when McConnell returned to her native Australia and committed suicide.
7. It was a feel-good story to match all others. People could not shower enough praise on Edmonton’s Adam Shaw and his dog Rocky, after the two friends came to the rescue of two young girls who had fallen into the freezing North Saskatchewan River. The two girls had been sledding when one of them slipped into the river, followed in by her sister who reached out to try to help her out. Shaw rescued one of the girls, while Rocky jumped in and dragged the second back to shore. Emergency services said afterwards the pair of heroes likely saved lives the 10- and nine-year-old girls.
8. No matter how often these happen, and they are happening once to often, the suicide of a young soul, left so tattered and broken by abuse and bullying at the hand of his or her peers, never ceases to lose its sting. Saskatchewan teen Todd Loik joins Amanda Todd and Retaeh Parsons, all children whose mental and emotional torture was so severe that the only way they saw to escape it all was to end their own lives. The 15-year-old killed himself on September of this year.
9. It was one of the most contagious cases of pay it forward in recent memories. It all started with a simple gesture – an anonymous Good Samaritan bought 500 coffees for the 500 customers behind him at an Edmonton Tim Hortons. On its own, the story brought smiles to readers and left hearts as warm as a belly full of Timmy’s. But it didn’t end there. The gesture caught on like wildfire, with more than six reported Tim Hortons locations across Alberta seeing do-gooders repeat the gesture. It even caught on as far away as Ottawa.
10. If there is one good thing that came from the Alberta flood is that it helped to shave away a bit of the cynicism that many Albertans fear has now replaced the western hospitality and goodwill that had for so long been a cornerstone of Alberta society. The flood reminded us of how important we still are to one another and that, in the end, Albertans will still drop everything to help their neighbour. And few people better expressed those sentiments than self-described cynic, artist and HuffPost Alberta blogger Patrick LaMontagne.
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11. This is a story that has wrenched the guts of readers for years. But the soul-shaking allegations that surround Alberta’s infamous roadside zoo, the Guzoo, took on a more heartwrenching nature when accused trespassers shot video and photos of animals caged out of the public’s view and carcasses rotting in an adjacent field. It was those images that once again got people talking about the petting zoo and that enraged an overwhelming chunk of readers.
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12. Wren Kauffman is a courageous 11-year-old boy who, in an era in which cyberbullying and abuse drive disheartened children to their deaths, has openly come out to his school peers as transgender. Not wanting to be captive any longer to the depression and sadness that come from hiding, the boy, who was born a girl, has given the meaning of the word courage a whole new dynamic.
"People tease me right now and I can handle it. The way that I like to look at it is that they're just practice for the real jerks in life.
"And, besides, if they say something to me, then they don't have to be part of my life ... I don't think I need people who don't like me."
13. They can only be described as painful to the soul. An Edmonton youth worker has embraced Twitter as a tool for which to advocate for disadvantaged youth in the city. His days are painfully long, his observations of the children his trying to save, excruciating. And the tweets that result are often times agonizing.
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14. Many shook their heads in disbelief. All gasped. A retired Calgarian who claims to have done well for himself won the city's biggest ever lotto jackpot - $40 million - only to turn around and give it all to charity. His first donation? To the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, where his wife fought a valiant battle against cancer before dying two years ago.
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