Tragedy and triumph, fresh faces, notable departures, and new challenges. As 2018 draws to a close, here is a look at some of the top Metro stories of the year.
Lives upended: As many as 80 natural gas explosions and fires rocked the Merrimack Valley on Sept. 13, killing one man and forcing thousands from their homes. As the recovery dragged on through the fall, many families went without heat and hot water, and Columbia Gas faced investigations into the disaster.
Terror in the water: Fears of a fatal shark attack on the Cape were realized Sept. 15. The victim: Arthur Medici, 26, of Revere, who was boogie-boarding in the waters off Wellfleet. It was the state’s first fatal shark attack in 80 years.
We have pot: The first recreational pot shops opened in Massachusetts on Nov. 20, in Leicester and Northampton, two years after the state legalized marijuana.
Women win big: Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley defeated longtime incumbent Congressman Michael Capuano. Also joining the Massachusetts delegation in Washington: Lori Trahan, who won a narrow election for the seat held by retiring Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. In Suffolk County, Rachael Rollins will be the new district attorney. In Maine, Governor-elect Janet Mills represents a dramatic pendulum swing away from the conservative politics and aggressive demeanor of outgoing Governor Paul LePage.
In the line of duty: Yarmouth police Sergeant Sean Gannon, 32, was shot and killed in April as he was heading into the attic of a Barnstable home to arrest career criminal Thomas M. Latanowich, who had more than 100 criminal cases to his name. Weymouth Officer Michael Chesna, 42, was shot with his own gun in July after pursuing a suspect. Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy died fighting a massive, five-alarm fire in a city apartment building.
Forced out: State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg left Beacon Hill under a cloud of controversy. Boston School Superintendent Tommy Chang agreed to leave his post. And MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez was out after just 15 months on the job.
Presidential fever: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren ended the year considering a run for president in 2020. So did Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. But former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick took himself out of the running.
#MeToo: At MIT, officials investigated allegations against writer Junot Diaz but ultimately cleared him to return to the classroom. Meanwhile, three Dartmouth College psychology professors left their jobs amid allegations of sexual misconduct, and the school was sued by students who said Dartmouth failed to protect them.
Casino arrives: Seven years after Massachusetts legalized casino gambling, MGM Springfield opened in August, marking the first time patrons could legally wager on table games such as blackjack and craps within the state.
Grim milestone: The number of reported hate crimes in Massachusetts rose to its highest level in more than a decade: 427 incidents, the most since 2003. African-Americans were the most frequent targets, followed by Jews and LGBTQ people.
Big year for Harvard: Lawrence Bacow succeeded Drew Faust as president. A high-stakes lawsuit challenging the college’s admissions policy played out in federal court. And a group of fraternities and sororities sued over the college’s crackdown on single-sex organizations.
Tough year for small colleges: Mount Ida College in Newton shut down amid controversy. Newbury College in Brookline and the College of St. Joseph in Vermont announced they, too, would be closing. Industry watchers say the trend will continue.
Trooper scandal broadens: As of mid-December more than 40 State Police officers had been identified as possible targets of criminal charges for allegedly falsifying overtime records.
“Alex Cora for President”: Tens of thousands flocked downtown Oct. 31 to toast the Red Sox World Series victory with a duck boat parade that has become a cherished tradition for a city of champions.
Nurse staffing: Following a bruising and costly campaign, voters on Nov. 6 rejected a ballot measure that would have set strict limits on the numbers of patients assigned to hospital nurses.
Advances on CTE: A Boston University study published Nov. 4 for the first time suggests that a common gene variant may explain why chronic traumatic encephalopathy hits some people harder than others. The debilitating brain disease has been liked to jolts to the head during contact sports.