Tougher immigration enforcement, resistance against the presidency and Hurricane Irma were among the biggest conversation topics of 2017 throughout the nation — and they all had a unique impact in Maine over the past year.
But those weren’t the only popular stories of 2017. There was the now-infamous rabid raccoon attack, complaints of pooping tourists and, of course, Maine’s most beloved celebrity: Stephen King.
Here’s a look back at the most-read BDN stories of 2017.
1. When raccoons attack
It was the raccoon attack heard around the world — or, at least, heard around the internet. Rachel Borch was out for a run in Hope, Maine, in June when a raccoon began “bounding” toward her and sank its teeth into her thumb. The quick-thinking 21-year-old then showed her Maine grit by drowning the rabid animal in a puddle with her bare hands.
The story was picked up by news organizations across the country, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the Daily Mail, Runner’s World, Esquire and Cosmopolitan. “It’s definitely a crazy experience,” Borch told the Bangor Daily News in regard to the media attention. “You can’t predict something like this. It’s not a situation ever in a million years that I would imagine myself in.”
2. Stephen King turns 70
Stephen King has long been Maine’s most famous resident, but to Mainers, King is more than just a spooky guy. In honor of his 70th birthday on Sept. 21, Bangor residents reminisced about King coaching their kids on a YMCA basketball team, run-ins at the local Wal-Mart and meals at Panda Garden.
But the King mania didn’t stop there. Readers flocked to a story about how the house that inspired his book “Pet Sematary” was for sale in Orrington and how several houses near King’s West Broadway home also were available — if you’re not too scared to be neighbors with the master of horror, that is.
3. The tourists have gone wild
Mainers have always had a disdain for summer tourists, but Old Orchard Beach might have had it worse than any other town in 2017. Locals complained that summer tourists had taken to using the beach as their own toilet because of a lack of nearby bathrooms.
State officials later announced they would be installing portable toilets along Old Orchard Beach to combat the problem.
4. State rep makes threat against the president
State Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, received backlash from both ends of the political spectrum after going on a Facebook rant in July in which he suggested he would harm President Donald Trump if given the chance.
“Trump is a half term president, at most, especially if I ever get within 10 feet of that pussy,” Hamann wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. Following his comments, Hamann was removed from his seats on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, and the Secret Service opened an investigation into him.
5. Poland Spring accused of just being groundwater
That bottle of Poland Spring may not be as pure as the company wants you to believe, according to a lawsuit filed in Connecticut federal court in August.
The lawsuit claims that none of the company’s Maine water sources meets the federal definition of spring water and that the company has “politically compromised” state regulators. It accuses Nestle Waters North America Inc. of a “colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers.” But a Nestle Waters spokesperson said its water meets all relevant federal and state regulations on the classification and collection of spring water.
6. A window to the past
When a group of siblings in Union purchased a nearby camp, they didn’t realize they were buying a piece of Maine history. The cabin had miraculously remained untouched for decades, with relics such as photographs, dishware, medical supplies and birthday cards illuminating how the camp’s previous tenants lived.
“I wish we had more information. It would be cool to find a journal here. I was hoping we would find something like that,” Mark Brooks, one of the camp’s new owners, said. “It’s just bizarre.”
7. Local woman’s death grips community
Miraculously, Parker’s two young children — 5-year-old Mason Worcester and 1½-year-old Tiaona Robinson — survived the crash. Those who knew Parker spoke of her strength as she recovered from a drug addiction.
8. Maine immigrants fear arrest
Abdi Ali, a Somali immigrant and permanent resident of the U.S., was seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents inside the Cumberland County Superior Court in April after pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge. His arrest came at a time when Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement policy lead to similar incidents across the country. Ali was granted bail in June.
Shortly after Ali’s arrest, Otto Morales-Caballeros was detained by ICE agents near his Naples home. Morales-Caballeros had arrived in the U.S. 20 years ago from Guatemala and pleaded guilty to employment identity fraud in 2013. He was deported to Guatemala in May.
9. Collins stands in the national spotlight
Sen. Susan Collins had a bold year politically: She opposed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, voted against Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and teased the state and the nation with a possible run for governor but ultimately decided to stay in the U.S. Senate.
But what impacted Mainers the most in 2017 was her vote in support of the Republican tax reform bill, which included a repeal of an Obamacare law that everyone purchase health insurance or face tax penalties. The run-up to the vote — and the days afterward — led to a slew of protests at Collins’ Bangor and Portland offices.
10. Hurricane Irma strands Mainers in the Caribbean
Fourteen Mainers from the Bangor area who were in the Caribbean for a wedding were stranded on Sint Maarten when Hurricane Irma hit the island with winds in excess of 185 mph. After initially fearing it could be weeks before the group could be evacuated from the island — and dreading the one-two punch of Hurricane Jose — the group was rescued after several days.
They weren’t the only Mainers struggling to cope with 2017’s aggressive hurricane season. Former Mainers were h unkering down in Texas as they prepared for Hurricane Harvey, while others in Florida were bracing for Hurricane Irma.
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