A few times I had to consult a calendar while writing this end-of-the-year column.

Was it really only March when I walked into Parkway Center City Middle College to witness students claiming their space in a gun-violence debate that so routinely cuts them out?

Students at Parkway Center City Middle College listen to classmates talk about the national attention on mass shootings as the daily gun violence they live with goes unnoticed.
Helen Ubiñas / Staff
Students at Parkway Center City Middle College listen to classmates talk about the national attention on mass shootings as the daily gun violence they live with goes unnoticed.

Was the Fill the Steps Against Gun Violence gathering at the Art Museum really just six months ago?

Hundreds fill the Art Museum steps Monday. June 11, 2018 to protest gun violence, organized by Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Hundreds fill the Art Museum steps Monday. June 11, 2018 to protest gun violence, organized by Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas.

Have dog years given way to Trump years, because how else could the amoral administration have packed so much insanity and ignorance and just plain cruelty into one year? So much. So, so much.

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Wish Wall at Christmas Village at LOVE Park.

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As BuzzFeed writer Scaachi Koul wrote recently in her own end-of-year article:

"The trick of a truly exhausting year is that it makes you forget all other years, along with the big moments that almost broke you and even the little ones that arrived to slowly chip away at whatever resolve you had left.”

Exactly.

We’ve all had our share of both, haven’t we? Universal and personal moments that brought us to our knees.

Losing my dog in October crushed me. The unending drip of sexism and racism and erasure that women (especially of color, especially of a certain age — yes, that’s in bold on purpose) battle Every ... Damn ... Day ... in this world, and in journalism, chips away at the resolve it takes to force change.

It’s infuriating. Exhausting. More than a few times this year, I got tired, just straight-up tired of the fight(s).

But then, what’s the alternative? Surrender?

If any words stuck with me the most in 2018, it’s those, spoken by NPR’s Elise Hu at a journalism conference for women I attended this year.

And so that’s what I tried to do, and what I will continue to do in 2019: Look for heroes and keep them close, starting with those Parkway students and their teacher, Maureen Boland, who not only helped ignite their passion but has also kept it going by supporting their ongoing efforts -- including a new social justice club at the school.

Maureen Boland, a Parkway Center City Middle College English teacher, is surrounded by her ninth-graders. The students participated in the National School Walkout against gun violence in Philly.
Avi Steinhardt / For the Philadelphia Inquirer
Maureen Boland, a Parkway Center City Middle College English teacher, is surrounded by her ninth-graders. The students participated in the National School Walkout against gun violence in Philly.

And the families of homicide victims who fight every day not to be dismissed by a criminal reform movement that still fails to balance much-needed change with basic respect and compassion for families broken by the loss of a loved one.

Looking back, I documented a lot of tragedy in this year’s columns. But also, grace during some of the darkest moments of people’s lives. A young father shot and paralyzed while protecting children during a robbery. A man, who while still lying in a hospital bed with all kinds of bags and tubes sticking out of his body, spoke of forgiveness for the people who shot him.

Luis Berrios was shot on Nov. 12 during an attempted robbery.
Handout
Luis Berrios was shot on Nov. 12 during an attempted robbery.

And when it felt as though their dignity might be overshadowed by the daily dehumanization that passes for democracy these days, I went looking for more ways to meet them, while they kept vigil at their ailing children’s bedsides, on a traffic median as they crowdsourced for a mentoring program for neighborhood kids, at a pop-up newsroom where immigrant families talked to me about the stories they wished more people knew about them, and their children. Stories of love and sacrifice.

Look out for more of these local road trips next year. The next one will be Jan. 4 at Edison High School, where Carmen Pagan, a mother who has taken to the streets to save her son, has planned an outreach event in memory of her brother, killed by gunshots a police officer called an “ordinary occurrence” during the trial of the man who killed him.

Columnist Helen Ubinas talks to Southwark School after school participate during @NotesFromHeL Pop-Up Newsroom at the school cafeteria on Thursday, December 6, 2018. The @NotesFromHel Pop-Up Newsroom is an experiment in reaching the community, collaborating, etc, during a community events.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Columnist Helen Ubinas talks to Southwark School after school participate during @NotesFromHeL Pop-Up Newsroom at the school cafeteria on Thursday, December 6, 2018. The @NotesFromHel Pop-Up Newsroom is an experiment in reaching the community, collaborating, etc, during a community events.

Pagan is actually one of the lucky ones, or as lucky as any of the families of murder victims can be in a city where most homicides go unsolved. Her family got some justice. Mykia Capers, whom I wrote about in March, is hopefully on her way to getting some in the 2016 death of her son that left the corrections officer searching the faces of the prisoners in her charge and wondering if his killer, or people who knew his killer, walked among them.

Two men were recently arrested. It’s not nearly over, a trial awaits, but it’s more than many others have gotten.

Yullio Robbins (front) and Regina Curby hand out fliers in hopes of getting answers to unsolved murders in Germantown Saturday, December 22, 2018. MARGO REED / Staff Photographer
Yullio Robbins (front) and Regina Curby hand out fliers in hopes of getting answers to unsolved murders in Germantown Saturday, December 22, 2018. MARGO REED / Staff Photographer

Like Yullio Robbins, a mom who has relentlessly sought justice in the slaying of her 28-year-old son, executed in 2016 on a Germantown street in the middle of the day by someone who pumped 12 bullets into him as he begged for his life.

A few days before Christmas, she and others took to the streets again, to try to rattle the conscience of a city.

Heroes, all of them.