2020 Year in Photos, Part IV: Uncertain times

In August, school districts across Colorado began the delicate dance of bringing children back to classrooms amid a global pandemic. As quickly as COVID-19 trends change, so too do school districts’ plans for how to host classes. Infections and hospitalizations have surged since late October, leading the state, counties and municipalities to take more aggressive steps to curb community spread of the coronavirus. Those trends have also prompted rapidly evolving changes in learning formats at schools across the state.

Crisis Point

The pandemic and racial protests have raised the stress levels of Colorado’s youths. The state’s Safe2Tell system can pinpoint someone in need, but it can also bring police to the door of a teen experiencing a mental health crisis. As part of an examination of youth suicide, The Denver Post asked teens for their thoughts and worries. Read excerpts of their replies and the full series here.





Uncertain Times



Sports in the Pandemic

“What more could you ask from a group?” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the team’s playoff exit. “What more commitment, sacrifice, just everything in the last 82 days that our team has gone through. The history that we’ve made. The adversity that we faced and never ran from, embraced it…” For nearly three months, the team stuck together, authoring gripping comebacks, re-writing NBA history and changing how the Nuggets were perceived around the league. Denver ultimately lost the Western Conference Finals 4-1 to Los Angeles.





Wildfires

The 2002 Hayman fire burned more than 137,000 acres. Its record as the largest wildfire in Colorado history stood for 18 years, until it was topped three times in 2020. The Pine Gulch fire, shown north of Grand Junction on Aug. 20, below, was started by a lighting strike on July 31. The Cameron Peak fire in October burned more than 200,000 acres and became the state’s largest wildfire. The East Troublesome fire, which started in October, became the second-largest wildfire in the state.



The Pine Gulch fire burned Latham family land so quickly and badly that in many parts nothing is left but deep ash, soot and stumps of trees and brush.

“It’s like a moonscape,” said Latham Largent.

The family has ranched in South Dry Fork for 70 years and four generations. The Lathams own 250 head of cattle and 2,500 acres in South Dry Fork. They lost practically all of their acreage, both their own and the BLM land they leased, to the fire.

“Every mountain as far as the eye can see has burned. Mountains and valleys both,” said Latham. He continued, “Every one of these mountains has memories for us. Every hill has a story.”

However, this is not a family that sits around and thinks about what they have lost but rather what they still have. Latham said they have strong family bonds, a mutual love and respect for the land whether it is burned or not, and a tradition of working and living on the land.

“One thing you find out about people here is that they are realists. They don’t sit around and say ‘poor me’.’ They say, ‘OK what do we do now? How do we move forward.’ God has a plan for us somewhere. I have hay to haul, cows to water, land to reseed and fences to rebuild,” said Latham. “We just have to move forward.”

Read more about the challenges caused by wildfire to Western Slope ranchers here.

A devastating summer saw the three largest wildfires in state history blacken hundreds of thousands of acres and hundreds of homes. A longtime Grand Lake couple perished in the swift-moving East Troublesome fire.

“There are so many people in this town whose hearts are invested here,” said David Anderson, a Grand Lake resident since 1956. “That’s where my soul is.”



The record-breaking forest fires in Colorado are the latest sign climate change is affecting the West, causing scientists to increase their rhetoric and urging policymakers to move beyond planning and start taking action.

“We’ve got to get motivated and stop turning the thermostat up. That is urgent, not a sci-fi thing. It is us turning up the thermostat. It does not readily turn down. The farther we turn it up, the worse it will get,” said Scott Denning, a Colorado State University atmospheric scientist.

Colorado and the West will continue to experience more hot days, scientists say. The rising heat is depleting water and drying soil across the Colorado River Basin and other river basins. Recently, federal authorities classified 97% of Colorado in severe to exceptional drought.


Eyewitness

On Saturday, Oct. 10, Denver Post photojournalist Helen H. Richardson was covering dueling rallies in downtown Denver when a man was shot and killed directly in front of her.

Family members later identified the man fatally shot as Lee Keltner, 49. Police identified 30-year-old Matthew Robert Dolloff as the suspect and confirmed he was working as a private security guard for 9News at the time and not participating in the protest.

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Three of the images from that fatal encounter are shown here.

No one I’ve ever worked with wishes to cover something like this. I spoke with Helen on the phone just minutes after this happened, as she was cooperating with police to give eye witness testimony. I remember her saying that she didn’t even have time to think about running away. The shot was fired and as the man holding a gun looked around. She told me that her next thought was, “Is he going to just start shooting into the crowd?” I can’t imagine what it was like for Helen to witness this, but somehow she kept photographing, perhaps the only way she knew how to react, as a professional doing her job, photographing what was in front of her.

These are difficult photographs but, unfortunately, they are also part of the story of our community this year. — Patrick Traylor, The Denver Post



Election 2020








Suburban voters’ swing toward Democrats in the age of Donald Trump was substantially offset by fierce turnout among Trump’s base in some states on Election Day. But that wasn’t the case in Colorado — where metro Denver’s suburban counties helped power former Vice President Joe Biden to a statewide victory that more than doubled Hillary Clinton’s 5-percentage-point margin over Trump in 2016.





The Year of COVID

As 2020 draws to a close, Gov. Jared Polis has expressed hope that some Coloradans will begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end, as the virus’ spread continues to worsen, with hospitalizations and infections reaching record levels. The governor’s optimism followed drugmaker Pfizer’s announcement that data from late-stage trials showed its vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. A second company, Moderna, announced on Nov. 16 that its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be similarly effective, a second dash of hope in the global race for a drug to tame a resurgent virus that as of mid-November is killing more than 8,000 people a day worldwide.

This year, we divided our Year in Photos into four parts. Click here to see Part 1: Before COVID, Part 2: Outbreak and Part 3: Racial Justice..

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