Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006

2005: The News

More than anything else this is a cozy get-together. There’s nothing scientific or precise about a handful of stories I selected to share with you as we take an early walk down 2005’s memory lane.

That is maybe best illustrated by the very first story that came to mind when I thought about doing a “Year in Review” type article. It’s my personal favorite for 2005. Maybe if I would carefully go through all articles once again something else would come up but this story marked itself, for me, in that off the top of my hat I can recall it: bang, that’s my lead, I thought.

Top-pick of the Year 2005

Police in the UK received a phone call: dad reporting that his 10 year old daughter had just lost Tyrone out of the car window. Tyrone being a plushy toy tiger, mind you…
Amy was thus shown that dad took matters seriously but you can forgive dad for thinking nothing would come of his call, right? I mean, we got serious business to attend to!
The call was taken seriously none the less and a radio bulletin went out. Police constable Al Cuthbertson, who has kids of his own and understands the child-plushy toy attachment, kept a close guard on the part of the M11 he patrolled. Not long after he spotted the toy. A rolling roadblock was setup so the officer could get out safely. Tyrone was “successfully captured and placed securely in the back of Golf Tango 23.” A telephone call later Amy and her plushy friend were united.

That, to me, was the most heartwarming good news of 2005. Maybe you remember another story?

The Good news archive is an easy way to browse stories by year, month, or per category. Every so often I just dive in there and enjoy myself with the many good news stories published.

When I went back to the archives to have a look at 2005, these stories caught my attention. It’s really an informal pick. Like I said, this is just us sitting down and chatting about some 2005 “stuff”. Talking about that, if a story touches you I would really like to hear about it. You can easily reach me directly via this contact page. I try to respond personally to all email and usually do so within say 36 hours or so.

Some of my picks for 2005

Hurricane Katrina Hurricane Katrina was an incredible event, an incredible disaster. Sure, we’ve seen it all on TV happening elsewhere in the world but somehow the USA being hit by such a natural disaster felt different. More real? I don’t know. But pretty soon after the disaster struck I had to start a dedicated category for it because the outpouring of good news between all that misery was as amazing as the event itself. From all the stories, from a man who builds a house and gives it away to the chef cook who fed 700 out of his RV, the one headline that best illustrates the heartfelt support for the Katrina victims was “volunteer hotline overwhelmed: needs to pull the plug“. A deluge of over 8000 calls to the Greensville volunteer hotline in just under 72 hours time simply overloaded the administrative side of things.

Worth mentioning too is that some of the reported bad news wasn’t all that it was either. Reports that gunmen were shooting at rescue helicopters were rumours: Air Force, Coast GuardCoast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Louisiana Air National Guard say they have yet to confirm a single incident of gunfire at helicopters.
Likewise, the despair and frustration many felt with the official side of things is not reflected in the personal involvement of over 7500 volunteer federal staff aiding FEMA.

Volunteer Students who volunteer to clean. Not a surprise as a charity Oxfam reported that most 16-24 years old are ready to volunteer.

Driving a truck full of Thanksgiving food to distribute it among the less fortunate is one thing. But when two brothers more or less got lost and ended up in Mexico they distributed all the food there, went back to get more food and distributed that as well.

Scale doesn’t matter when helping people but it was impressive to learn that Mercy Ships International operates 3 hospital ships, one of which is the world’s largest floating non-governmental hospital, with three fully-equipped operating theatres, a dental clinic, an X-ray unit, CT scanner and a laboratory. They’re staffed by volunteers, have performed over 18 thousand surgical operations, provided 2 million services and thus impacted positively the lives of over 5.5 million people. Their field of operation: Africa.

Values & Honesty A great section to browse through in case you feel deceived by the human condition. Did you know for instance that 19 out of 20 computers left in taxi’s are returned? Think it stops there? In July a taxi driver returned $200,000 worth of jewels which were left in his taxi. Four months later another cab driver does the same but this time returns $350,000 in diamonds.

Sure, you say, but what else can you do? If you pawn the stuff you get arrested.

OK, I give you that one. But how about this one then? You’re homeless. You live with your five children in a shelter from the Salvation Army. Then one day you find an envelop with $800 in cash and paychecks in them. So what do you do? You return them. That is what 24 yo Canesha Blackman did; “People ask me, ‘What were you thinking? If it was my money, I would be crying if I didn’t get it back.”

Sudden Wealth Most items in this category came from lottery wins. Some stood out because total strangers make a lottery pact and win, others because the winner almost throws away $1 million winning ticket.

But if you beat odds of 759,157,346,444,112 to 1, I guess you deserve to mentioned here. Michelle Turnbull and David Lindsay from England scooped up no less than four lottery wins in one weekend. Again, that is beating odds of 759 trillion, 157 billion, 346 million, 444 thousand, and 112 to 1… That by far beats the odds of a French family winning the lottery twice with the same numbers.

And that sudden wealth doesn’t need to involve lottery number was proved by 19 yo waitress Josefin Justin who received a Porsche as a tip.

Science & Technology Ah, where to begin? Where to end? This section is amazing. If offers hope, amazement, a warm heart, and good news for many.

I can’t do justice to this section and will just mention some stories I remember. Like the brain injured fireman who had been mute for 10 years and to the puzzlement of scientists started to talk again. Miraculous operations such as restored sight for scores of patients, the surgery which replaced the missing ears of a 3 yo boy, or a thumb transplant.

Seriously, this is a never ending section: in England chuckling bins and singing benches are set loose, in the USA the longest frozen embryo baby is born, for the first time in history the existence of freak waves is confirmed, in Cameroon no less than 200 unknown plants are discovered, the miracle mouse which can grow back limbs… It simply doesn’t end.

Rescues A dog imitates the siren of a fire engine and thus alerts his owners to a fire. Another dog saves a toddler by alerting the parents. Tots were lucky anyway, like the 19 and 21 month old ones who were surrounded by the branches and leaves of a massive oak tree which had fell down but somehow managed to not hit and crush them.

Of course it is also the section for everyday heroes. People like you and me who stepped up when needed. What to think of the men who jumped on the subway tracks to drag a woman away from an oncoming train?

Politics It’s a category I don’t follow or work on a lot but still, you can’t beat a goodie like the mayor who rescued kids’ lemonade stand.

Odd I added this section in the Spring of this year after some hesitation. There are enough “odd news” sites out there to keep you busy for a day or two. But sometimes I come across stories which are … odd. Often they are not only odd but mean good news as well. The bank robber who forgets his wallet on the scene of the crime. Swedish police who have trained a dog to sniff out rapists. The cheerleaders who started to chant the license place of a car which had fled the scene of a car crash it had caused; the chant helped them to memorize the license plate and in turn helped police to make an arrest.

But yes, I admit it. At times also just really odd news. What about the dog who got summoned to court for not wearing a leash? Or the two women who were charged with pushing a card under influence?

Miracles If you were to believe the traditional media a “controversial” category. I often don’t have the time to fully edit these stories but more often than not they are presented as a “miracle”: with double quotes. As if it isn’t so…

Guess these things go by your own definition of it. When a cargo plane slams onto a residential street, slides 100 yards, then explodes into a fireball and yet no-one is seriously hurt – to me that is a miracle. A baby’s cot is hit by a falling tree in a tornado. Baby is OK and unhurt. Another baby beats 1 in 13 million odds growing in his mother’s abdomen and still being born healthy. A 2 yo boy falls in front of a train. The forward wind drag of the speeding train sweeps him out of the way and he survives unhurt.

You may want to call it “statically less probable”, “less likely”. Call it what you wish, reading these stories and many others I shake my head in disbelief and call them miracles.

Love Oh this is one you should really read. These are real heartwarmers. Valentines reunited after half a century apart. A couple is reunited via the web – 50 years later. A couple who met at McDonald’s do a McDonald’s wedding. In the midst of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation a love story blooms. A 7 yo sets her uncle up with her teacher.
Or how about a couple celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary?

Life Sometimes a story doesn’t fit any one category in particular. It’s just … life. The German family so happy to have their green cards, celebrating their US citizenship. The Nepalese village where they turn dung into dollars. The poem for a wife which became a book 33 years later. School bureaucrats who come to the rescue.

Life.

The Point I think you get the point… 2005 was a year filled with good news, amazing stories. And I can do it no justice by hand picking a few stories here and there. Whether you’re new to the site or have been a frequent visitor, I hope the above sampling has inspired you to come back for more or to re-read some past stories.

2006 will definitely bring a true year review. In fact, at this ungodly hour (2:40 AM) that is precisely what I’m working on; putting things in place that help us, you and me, to spot the best stories.

Ruud.

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