The past 12 months have been historic, life changing and unparalleled and most likely will stand out as key markers in modern history, dividing the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras.
While the first few weeks of January started off fairly uneventfully, by the time the novel coronavirus outbreak was on our local radar, normal life along the Midpeninsula was already over. The unprecedented halt of everyday life came suddenly, and we had no idea how long or how extreme its impacts might be.
We thought the March shelter-in-place orders were only to be for a few weeks, but nine-and-a-half months later, the Midpeninsula remains in a much different place: Telecommuting is the norm; students are distance learning at home; and it's still uncertain when most retail shops, restaurants and theaters may fully reopen.
Amid this life-altering pandemic, 2020 also brought unprecedented fires that burned out of control for 37 days in the hills above Palo Alto and in the greater Bay Area, as well as a month of protests in the streets as residents joined a national movement calling for social equality and police reforms.
The city found itself in the national spotlight during 2020 for other unbelievable events, including the miraculous rescue of a Palo Alto couple who went missing in the wilderness for nine days.
We witnessed the rise of community heroes: neighbors, merchants, students and retirees armed with ingenuity and selflessness like Palo Alto resident Howard Kushlan, whose one-man effort to lend a hand mobilized dozens of like-minded volunteers to run errands and help those most vulnerable in the community.
There were also elections, bribery scams, high school graduations, the introduction of a new Barron Park donkey and a host of other "normal" community happenings set against this surreal and challenging pandemic backdrop.
As we close 2020, December is a long way from where we started in January. Here is a look at how the year unfolded and evolved into a new normal.
Read more of our year-in-review coverage: