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If our thoughts about 2021 were to be perfectly captured in a picture, the Boston Globe shot of Maine centenarian celebrity Virginia Oliver tossing a lobster overboard would be at the top of the list. This has been a “toss it back” kind of year.
As Bangor Daily News reporter Abigail Curtis has pointed out, however, there are still plenty of stories from this year worth holding on to. So while we don’t exactly look back at the last 12 months with particular fondness, there are still things to celebrate and emulate heading into 2022.
When an entire magnetic resonance imaging building ran into problems on the road to a Bar Harbor hospital this summer Mainers reacted to the delays with kindness and encouragement rather than frustration and impatience. It was a true “The Way Life Should Be” kind of moment.
“I was born into this industry. It’s all I’ve ever done,” the fleet manager from the Indiana-based transportation company moving the building said at the time. “We’re used to being the ones that make people late to work, that cause the frustration. I’ve never, ever remembered a time that we’ve been cheered on like this.”
When staffing challenges forced Regional School Unit 26 food service director Ben Jacobson to basically do two jobs in order to feed Orono middle and high school students, he met the challenge with admirable positivity.
“It’s a struggle, but we stay positive. We’re all here for a reason,” Jacobson told BDN reporter Sawyer Loftus. “We want to be here for the kids. I’m here to build a program and build something meaningful.”
When Ruby Day grew up surrounded by generational poverty, housing insecurity and other challenges, she didn’t expect to go to college. But when the Belfast teen graduated from high school, she had her pick of nine colleges thanks to her intelligence, abilities and hard work.
“Everyone has their own paths. I’m going to go and figure it out,” she told Curtis. “I have a lot of possible routes.”
And when a father and son from Portland hit a bad storm as they brought a beat-up old boat back from Nova Scotia, they managed to get the vessel home and ended up giving it a fitting new name: Second Chance.
“It wanted a second chance at life — it knew we were its second chance,” fisherman Knoep Nieuwkerk said.
These aren’t the only hopeful stories in Curtis’ helpful recap, and there have been other encouraging Maine moments in 2021 that didn’t make that list. Millinocket was finally able to welcome home 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau more than 75 years after the World War II pilot died when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed off the coast of Croatia. Maine graduates like Grace Muheto at the University of Southern Maine shined during dreary times that have challenged students and educators alike.
“I hope that we can love each other despite everything that we believe makes us so different,” Muheto said in her commencement speech.
Even in an objectively bad year, there have been triumphs and inspiration that continue to deserve recognition and appreciation. In particular, health care workers have weathered the “kind of war zone” working to keep Maine people healthy in the midst of a pandemic.
It hasn’t solely been individual triumphs, either. There have even been some political successes, like Maine once again proving to the rest of the country that the redistricting process doesn’t have to be dominated by drama and brinkmanship.
We’re not here to romanticize 2021, but we do appreciate the reminder from our colleague Abby Curtis that Mainers have done some amazing things this year. Heading into 2022, we’re also reminded of something Maine World War II veteran George Newhall said this summer when asked about how it feels to be one of the last World War II veterans: “I’m just happy to be here.”
Cheers to that, and cheers to all the Mainers who did amazing things in 2021.