Top news not always best news

Kai Hagen

January 10, 2003

One year comes to an end. Another begins. And just as reliably, we have again been presented with the annual year-in-review reports in newspapers and magazines, and on television, radio and the internet.

Depending on the source, the emphasis is on major news events, politics, famous people who have passed away, the entertainment industry, sports achievements and competitions, the natural world, the best photographs of the year, or all of the above.

Time flies. But seeing it all laid out in one long list reminds us that a lot of things happen in a year. And the top news stories of 2002 did not include a lot of good news.Corporate America was plagued by financial scandals, as high profile companies like Enron, Anderson Consulting, Worldcom, ImClone, Adelphia and Tyco came under fire for illegal practices.

Consumer confidence took a nosedive, and nervous investors sent the NASDAQ falling nearly 20 percent in the first half of the year. Overall, stocks fell for 3rd straight year, already the market's longest losing streak in 61 years. Americans even slashed their spending during the holidays, which were the weakest since results were tracked..

The Catholic Church was rocked by continuing allegations of illicit sex and molestation and widespread cover-ups, which has left many Catholics angry and disillusioned, and damaged the church's credibility.

For 22 days in October, a sniper terrorized the region, randomly shooting people. Normal life in the area was completely disrupted, and 11 people were killed before it was over.

The threat of terrorism at home was never far from the headlines, with deadly attacks overseas. We marked the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic events of September 11. And one might say the best news of the year was what didn't happen: Another attack on U.S. soil.

American forces fought a war in Afghanistan. Another, potentially much larger war looms in Irag, with unforeseeable consequences. Tensions are building about nuclear weapons in North Korea.

Often overshadowed by issues like the economy and the war against terror, the environment still grabbed out attention in many ways. 2002 was the second-hottest year on record, and amid growing concern and debate about global climate change, we read about and watched unprecedented floods in Europe, fires in Australia, widespread drought, and a massive oil spill off the coast of Spain and France.

It wasn't the worst of times. But you wouldn't call 2002 a keeper, if you had the choice.

Thinking about the past year, however, it is particularly striking to consider the contrast and connections between life in Frederick County, and the major events around the nation and across the globe.

The contrast is dramatic.

On a personal level, 2002 was a good year. Everyone in my family is healthy. My wife and I are working at jobs we enjoy. I've been able to invest some time in various volunteer projects I find rewarding. The kids are doing fine in school, playing soccer at the YMCA, and have enough free time to do what kids do when it's up to them. Our life here includes working in our garden, taking walks in the woods, and riding bikes along the Potomac. We were able to take a couple of trips out of state last summer.

Along with many others, we enjoyed life in Frederick County throughout the year. We began a lovely spring with our annual visit to the Maple Syrup Festival in Cunningham Falls State Park. We attended summer concerts and an outstanding 4th of July celebration and fireworks in Baker Park. A very colorful autumn brought a day at the Great Frederick Fair and another at Frederick's "In The Streets" festival.

Perhaps you took in a show at the Weinberg Center or an exhibit at the Delaplain Visual Arts Center, attended Keys games, spent a day at Colorfest or watched the Wings over Frederick Air Show, to name just a few of the possibilities.

Life in Frederick County went on as scheduled this past year.

Nevertheless, we don't live in a bubble here. Many of the national and global events of 2002 have an affect on us and can influence most aspects of our day to day lives -- not just at airports, where we wait in long lines to pass through heightened security on our way somewhere else.

Many Frederick County residents or their family members serve in the armed forces. Some are at risk in Afghanistan. Others may be at risk in Iraq and elsewhere. Thousands of us commute to the DC area, and worry about the threat of another terrorist attack. Activities at Fort Detrick, the anthrax-related FBI search in the Frederick watershed and helicopters flying overhead to Camp David remind us of our connections to global events.

The horror of sniper attacks made people afraid to be put gas in their car or spend time in public places, and led to lock downs at our schools, and to difficult conversations with our children. And the snipers were ultimately captured right here in Frederick County.

We are not insulated from the national economy, either. Markets and businesses and jobs and incomes of people here are affected by investor fears, government policy, oil prices and so many other events and decisions far from home.

Though research and debate continues about specific causes and effects, even our weather is affected by the actions and choices of people and governments around the world.

We are fortunate to live in a place where the worst of 2002 was experienced through the news. But we are connected to the rest of the state, the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

We can't escape the problems. And we can't solve them on our own.

My new year's resolution is to pay attention, and to do the little things I can do here than might help in some way.

To get in touch, e-mail Kai Hagen at