New Year’s Day is that time of the year when resolutions for success, or reform, control many of our thoughts.

It is also a time to take stock of where we’ve been to better understand where we need to go as individuals and a community. Courier readers and editors take on that job each year by making their choices of the top 10 news stories of the Cedar Valley.

As in past years, the top 10 stories for 2012 covered such things as major crimes, weather anomalies and business growth. However, the top three stories of the past year have hit on our human emotions perhaps more than any time in recent memory. They ran the gamut from heartbreaking grief; military and personal sacrifice turned to uplifting inspiration; and community disappointment and outrage.

Those top three stories held such local sway that they knocked top national stories — the drought and the general election — down to fourth and fifth places, respectively.

The No. 1 story was the disappearance and — as we eventually found out — the murders of Evansdale cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins. That was also the state’s top story, as ranked by Associated Press newspaper and broadcast members.

It gripped the entire Cedar Valley as we hoped for a safe return, only to be metaphorically gut-punched when we learned their fate. This story continues into 2013, as we have turned our collective hopes toward the capture of those responsible.

Then comes the story of Taylor Morris, a U.S. Navy explosive ordinance disposal expert from Cedar Falls, who lost portions of all four limbs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan in May. That story includes the support of Morris’ longtime girlfriend Danielle Kelly, also of Cedar Falls, who has helped him throughout his recovery. Their story has inspired many across the nation as it is told in pictures and words in mainstream and social media.

The No. 3 story was the stunning downfall of Russell Wasendorf Sr., and Peregrine Financial Group, which he founded. After an $18 million building was constructed in Cedar Falls in 2009, Wasendorf was found unconscious in his car on the company’s campus on the morning of July 9, 2012 after an apparent suicide attempt. He was later arrested, and eventually pleaded guilty to having defrauded PFG customers out of more than $200 million.

The loss of the two cousins provide a poignant reminder that life is so precious and fragile and that it must never be taken for granted — a premise we can all build on in our own family and friend relationships.

The story of Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly has showcased many emotions, beginning with our initial reaction to horrific physical injury. It has since furnished us with lessons of dedication, persistence, inspiration and — certainly not least — love.

The Wasendorf/PFG scandal provided an emotion we would rather shed as we enter 2013. However, each of these stories have provided us with plenty to think about and, perhaps, improve upon.

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