Top ten events of the decade, as covered by Westword
It's the time of the decade when we look back at the events that stood out from the more typical sound and fury of life in general.
Photo by John Johnston Jessica Brakey, who was at the center of Julie Jargon's award-winning Air Force Academy feature.
But a simple list of incidents doesn't reveal nearly as much about these happenings than do reports from the time when they were taking place, assembled long before we could look at them with anything approaching historical perspective.
With that in mind, we offer ten of the biggest stories in Colorado as they were told in the pages, and on the website, of Westword.
Drum roll, please.
Although the massacre at Columbine High School took place in April 1999, the fallout from the homicidal rage that erupted back then has continued to rain down for years. Alan Prendergast doggedly traced the systematic obfuscations that plagued the investigation in features like 2004's "Anatomy of a Cover-up." In addition, much more of Westword's reportage on the topic can be accessed in an archive dubbed the Columbine Reader.
The Air Force Academy scandal:
The Colorado Springs institution was rocked by rape and abuse accusations put forward by a small number of female cadets. Former Westword staffer Julie Jargon lit the fuse on this story with "The War Within," a January 2003 feature. Read it here -- and learn more by perusing our Inside the Air Force Academy archive.
For Coloradans who didn't lose loved ones in the collapse of the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon or assorted aircraft used by the terrorists to wreak havoc that continues to reverberate, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were brought home to them mainly by television, radio and newspapers -- what's now regarded as old technology. Here's a sense of what it was like for one local family (mine) as recapped in a media column headlined, "The Media Eye: It Never Blinks -- Even When We Wish It Would."
The Kobe Bryant Circus:
Eagle County became the center of the media world after a young woman accused basketball star Kobe Bryant of sexual assault. (Charges against him were later dropped.) The craziness of that time is captured in an account of Bryant's first court appearance, entitled "Welcome to Kobeville."
The CU recruiting scandal:
Defenders of CU insist that the connection between accusations of rape at a party attended by football players and the recruiting of same has always been shaky. But be that as it may, the pigskin program was decimated by poisonous publicity that shook the entire institution to its foundation for years. Read about the mistakes that fanned the flames in the 2005 feature "Failure to Communicate."
The Ward Churchill mess:
CU professor Ward Churchill's controversial essay about 9/11 didn't make much of an impact for years -- but once the mainstream learned about his comments, all hell broke loose. Churchill was dismissed from the university, allegedly for academic misconduct, but he sued for reinstatement using the argument that he'd really been targeted for constitutionally protected speech. In the end, he won his argument -- and a dollar. To read many more takes on Churchill, click here.
The Hayman Fire:
This blaze was the state's largest ever, albeit one that didn't happen naturally. Terry Lynn Barton, a forest service worker, admitted to starting the conflagration, earning her infamy that former Westword managing editor Ernie Tucker said was comparable to that surrounding Alfred Packer and Molly Brown, but a little shy of John Elway's status. Read his amusing take here.
Closure of the Rocky Mountain News:
The Rocky seemed like a permanent part of Colorado's landscape. But just shy of it's 150th birthday, the tabloid closed up shop, a victim of changes in the communication business that will undoubtedly rack up many more casualties over time. Get a sense of what led to the paper's demise in the December 2008 feature "The Rocky Mountain News is Going Down."
The Democratic National Convention:
The DNC was all about politics, obviously, but ideology is wholly unimportant when assessing the impact the convention had on Denver. The hoopla was so great that Westword created a stand-alone blog, dubbed Demver, in order to chronicle all the parties, protests and presidential aspirations -- and the material remains online, preserved for cyber-eternity. Find all of it by clicking here.
The Colorado Rockies reach the World Series:
The Rockies sucked for so long, and so hard, that when the team reached the World Series in 2007, the entire community seemed to be in a daze -- a wonderful, thrilling daze. It didn't last long, of course: The Rocks were swept away by the Boston Red Sox. Find blogs from that period here -- and then continue on to check out former Westworder Adam Cayton-Holland's feature about the following year's spring training, when hope sprang eternal.
As we know, there was no hope for the Rockies in 2008, but they rebounded this year with another playoff appearance, and the future looks bright. May it work out that way for them -- and for the rest of us.