December 11, 2020 4:35 PM EST

There was no way of knowing at the end of 2019 what the onrushing train of 2020 would bring. Yes, there were some signs: systemic racism and the death of too many Black men at the hands of white police officers was already a scourge. Wildfires in the West, hurricanes around the world, and an increasingly volatile climate were already a menace as the overheated Earth continued to run a fever. An unconventional President facing a restive public and a re-election campaign portended partisan rancor and possible electoral upheaval. And then there was the cluster of cases of a deadly flu-like disease in Wuhan, China that seemed—to Americans at least—to be somebody else’s problem.

What 2020 became was a series of rolling disasters—the killing of George Floyd, the burning of California, an acrimonious political campaign marred by baseless allegations of fraud and illegal voting, and the worst pandemic the world has seen in more than a century. But in the midst of the tragedies there was courage, there was grace, there was sacrifice, there was hope—there were people faced with the very worst rising up to be their very best. Few will recall the year just ending with anything close to fondness. But it will surely be recalled with no small measure of pride.

Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.

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