It’s been another whirlwind year for Baltimore. In 2017, the city was the backdrop of Netflix and HBO documentaries, had its entire bus network redesigned and grappled with an opioid epidemic intertwined with a third straight year of more than 300 homicides.
The year brought upheaval in the region’s public school systems, with both Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance and Howard County School Superintendent Renee Foose exiting their posts amid controversies. In the city, some teachers were accused of staging a “sick-out” — staying home to protest impending budget cuts and layoffs to close a $130 million budget deficit.
A solar eclipse turned our eyes to the sky as a “fatberg” of congealed grease and trash grew in the sewer under our feet. Thefts and other issues plagued Baltimore’s nascent bike share system. Maryland Democratic candidates began queuing up to take on incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the 2018 governor’s election.
Here are a few of the stories that made headlines.
Eight-year-old Erin Malone helped her mother, Katie, pull her 4-year-old sister Jane and 5-year-old brother Jack from the burning home. But first responders were unable to rescue six other siblings — Bridgette, 11; Amelia, 10; twins Zoe and Amanda, 3; Billy, 2; and Daniel, 8 months. After a monthslong investigation, the Fire Department was unable to determine the cause.
The June hit-and-run death of 20-year-old bicyclist Aaron Michael Laciny in Towson — less than a mile from the spot where cyclist Thomas Palermo was killed by a drunk and texting driver in 2014 — infuriated the bicycling community and renewed calls from advocates for more bike-friendly infrastructure to protect bicyclists.
Several military deaths hit home in Maryland this summer. Sgt. Eric Houck, 25, of Perryville, and two other U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack by an Afghan soldier on June 10. Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe was one of seven sailors killed in a collision between the U.S. Navy destroyer Fitzgerald and a container ship off the coast of Japan just over a week later. Two Maryland sailors were among 10 killed when the destroyer USS McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore in August. Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, of Gaithersburg and Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, of Manchester were on board the ship.
Gun carnage continued across the country, with the deadliest mass shooting in recent history killing 59 people and injuring 520 others, including a former Anne Arundel County resident, at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in October. Crofton native Tina Frost was shot in the head at the concert and, after emerging from a coma, returned to Maryland for further treatment and rehabilitation.
Later that month, three people were killed and two were injured in a workplace shooting at an Edgewood granite workshop, allegedly by a suspect who led police on a manhunt to Delaware, where he is charged with shooting and injuring a sixth victim. The suspect, Radee L. Prince, faces a slew of charges in both states.
In September, a 33-year-old Montgomery County man was charged with murder after allegedly killing his pregnant girlfriend, Wilde Lake High School teacher Laura Wallen, burying her in a shallow grave — and then making a dramatic public plea for help finding her.
It wasn’t the only botched re-launch for the city transportation department this year. Baltimore’s speed camera system returned on July 31 but stumbled on its first day, when the vendor accidentally issued more than $38,480 in duplicate tickets to nearly 1,000 people.
A crowded field of Democratic candidates have declared or are exploring campaigns against Hogan, the popular Republican incumbent, for governor in 2018.
Those running (so far) include Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; former NAACP leader Ben Jealous; state Sen. Richard Madaleno; technology entrepreneur and author Alec Ross; Baltimore attorney Jim Shea; Krish Vignarajah, a former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama; and Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a policy consultant who is married to U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
In a year when national and local politics felt as divisive as ever, Maryland House Speaker Michael Mike Busch’s life-saving June liver transplant from his sister brought about a statewide sigh of bipartisan relief. Busch had been diagnosed with nonalcoholic liver disease in May.
As Baltimore school officials struggled with a $130 million budget shortfall, Howard and Baltimore counties both saw their top education officials leave before their contracts ended.
In February, teachers at Tench Tilghman Elementary-Middle School in East Baltimore called out sick en masse in what school officials and the teachers union called a “sick-out” protest against a looming $130 million of budget cuts and layoffs. While the city and state contributed money to help fill the gap, Baltimore City Public Schools laid off 115 people to close the shortfall, including assistant principals, librarians, school counselors — as well as the first classroom teachers to lose their jobs in a decade.
(The other high-profile Baltimore documentary released this year, HBO’s “Baltimore Rising,” focused on young activists’ response to the 2015 death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent trials of the six police officers who were charged in Gray’s arrest and death.)
Baltimore being Baltimore, there was no shortage of odd, quirky and just plain weird news.
City workers discovered a giant glob of congealed grease, wipes and other detritus — a mass known as a “fatberg” — causing overflows in the city’s sewer system in September.
The solar eclipse was a cultural phenomenon, drawing all eyes to the sky one Monday in August for the “Super Bowl of Astronomy.” Storm clouds mostly obscured the view in Baltimore, but the sun peeked out a few times, partially blocked out by the moon.
Thousands of the cicadas that overwhelm Maryland’s tree branches once every 17 years showed up in May — four years early, which some scientists attributed to climate change. The hypothesis: Longer growing seasons due to climate change may have shortened the cicadas’ life cycle, which could have created new cycles of timekeeping broods.
A tornado tore though Kent Island in July, one of the most destructive to hit Maryland in years, tearing the second stories off townhouses, twisting metal electricity poles and ripping massive trees from the ground. One person was reported injured by falling debris.
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Upper Fells Point was evacuated in October for a burning odor. The smell sent two students and three adults to the hospital with upset stomachs. The culprit? A pumpkin-spice aerosol plug-in.