Every new year carries over storylines from the previous year, but given the weight of the events of 2020, this year began with an unusual amount of baggage. Politics continue to polarize. Colorado is still battling the pandemic. Our communities keep struggling with racial, environmental and economic issues. Luckily we saw some relief from wildfires this season. Conclusions remain elusive.
From our eyes to yours, Denver Post photojournalists brought readers a wide variety of human experiences in 2021. The mass shooting at a Boulder grocery store haunted us with all too familiar scenes of terror and a community coming together in the aftermath of tragedy. As the delta variant of the coronavirus surged across the state, we documented the different ways Coloradans responded to the ongoing crisis. We dug into issues around water availability and rights on the Eastern Plains, the effects of living with trauma from police brutality and what a rare case of so-called “long COVID” looks like.
The Nuggets and Avalanche once again made competitive playoff runs. In a last-minute turn of events, Denver hosted baseball’s All-Star Game, for the second time at Coors Field. And this fall, the Denver Broncos welcomed back fans at full capacity for the first time since before the pandemic.
This annual presentation could not come to life without so much work behind the scenes from Matt Swaney, Katie Rausch, Donovan Henderson, Maureen Burnett, Chris Paul and George Tanner.
We present to you the Year in Photos.
— Patrick Traylor, Senior Editor for Photography & Multimedia
Documentary and portrait photographer Alyssa Kapnik Samuel chronicled the last weeks of the life of her 98-year-old grandmother Merrily in late 2020. Published in 2021, Alyssa’s images illuminate the often difficult and precious time at the end of life. Ultimately Merrily chose to utilize Colorado’s End-of-Life Options Act to end her life on her own terms. “She was steeped in love. Love from caregivers, from family, from friends,” Alyssa wrote.
Flying Parts from Plane
Jan. 6 in Denver
On March 22, a gunman terrorized a King Soopers in Boulder, killing 10 and shattering a tight-knit workplace and a larger community’s sense of security around an everyday task — grocery shopping. The mass shooting, Colorado’s worst since a gunman killed 12 and injured 70 in an Aurora movie theater in 2012, became the latest in a state that is all too familiar with high-profile, large-scale violence. The attack also came within a week of a killing spree in the Atlanta area, where a gunman fatally shot eight people at three spas. The back-to-back incidents ended a year-long stretch during the pandemic when America seemed to have escaped shootings with such high victim counts.
Unclear waters on the Eastern Plains
For nearly a century, leaders in southeastern Colorado have worked on plans to bring clean drinking water to the area through the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, but progress on the pipeline project stalled after a major push in the 1960s. Pollution, water transfers and years of worsening drought amid a warming climate continue to build stress for water systems in the area. The area continues to see population decline combined with a struggling economy.
The water needed for the conduit will be sourced from melting snowpack in the Mosquito and Sawatch mountain ranges. Under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, passed in the early 1960s, the water has been allocated for usage in the Lower Arkansas Valley. The water will be stored at Pueblo Reservoir and travel through existing infrastructure to east Pueblo near the airport. From there, the conduit will tie into nearly 230 miles of pipeline to feed water to 40 communities in need.
Renewed plans to build a pipeline to deliver clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley are bringing hope for many people in southeastern Colorado. But in an area that is inextricably linked to its water, the future can seem unclear.
Read the full story here.
Throughout spring training, the Rockies carried a big chip on their collective shoulder and talked about the hustling, exuberant brand of baseball they were going to play.
On April 1, on a gorgeous 70-degree opening day at Coors Field, they delivered in front of 20,570 rowdy fans eager to watch baseball in person again. It was the first time since 2019 fans had been able to watch the team in-person.
The Rockies began the season on a high note with an 8-5 win over the Dodgers but eventually fell to 71-82, clinching their third consecutive losing season and the 20th losing season in their 29 years of existence.
Nuggets center named NBA MVP
Nikola Jokic was named league MVP in June, becoming the lowest draft pick to ever win the award and the first Nuggets player ever to do so.
After the shortest offseason in NBA history, Jokic entered the season with a rare intensity.
Teammates quietly remarked how steadfast he was in his work ethic. Others noticed his unimpeachable engagement. Jokic played in all 72 games — a point of pride considering the condensed NBA schedule, the mental toll of playing through a pandemic and the nuisance of COVID testing multiple times a day. Jokic didn’t blink.
Despite losing Jamal Murray for the season to a torn ACL in April, the Nuggets defeated the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of the NBA playoffs before ultimately losing to the Phoenix Suns in the second round.
Read more about how Nikola Jokic became the NBA’s most improbable MVP here.
The Avalanche thrilled its fanbase last season — with a best-in-the-NHL 39-13-4 regular season record — and in the first round of the playoffs, only to be eliminated by Las Vegas in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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