Laurels & lances: 2018
Lance : To questionable public servants. Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held started a year noted for a number of questionable actions from elected or appointed officials when he was charged with crimes by the Pennsylvania Attorney General. He would be joined over the ensuing months by his top two deputies in unrelated offenses. There was a laundry list of others, including Leechburg’s now former police chief Mike Diebold , who pleaded guilty in the solicitation of an undercover agent he believed to be an underage girl, and a former South Greensburg secretary who doubled down on bad deeds when he pleaded guilty to stealing funds and then paid restitution with what officials believe was money illegally taken from his father.
Laurel : To the people who do what needs doing. A lot of people did the right thing for their communities. Locals came together to help each other, to make their homes and neighbors safer, smarter and better in ways big and small every day, from Shawna Harrison’s Greensburg pug rescue to fire departments that saved homes and property to Karen McKendree, the Kiski mom who started a nonprofit to give warm clothes to kids in memory of her son.
Lance : To bad faith. The Catholic church and bishops — current and former — were revealed to have been at the heart of 70 years or so of child sexual abuse when Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report finding more than 300 predator priests credibly accused across Pennsylvania.
Laurel : To changes for the good. If there was anything good about the report, it was steps taken to make sure such abuse never happens again, and the opportunities that survivors had to tell their stories, like Ryan O’Connor, who is using it as a chance to push for reform.
Lance : To the loss of lives. Unfathomable hatred raised its ugly head in Squirrel Hill in October when a gunman stormed worship services at the Tree of Life synagogue. The quiet neighborhood is now the scene of the bloodiest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, with 11 dead and more injured, including two police officers who were wounded.
Laurel : To the finding of hope. Tragedy cuts us to our bones, but it also allows us to show the best of what we are. That happened in the area as the world turned its eyes on the city in its mourning. With clasped hands, raised prayers and a light of love and support, there was no question that Pittsburghers stood together, side by side and strong as iron.