As 2012 draws to a close, we suspect the reaction of many area residents is good riddance.
To say 2012 has been a tough year is an understatement. While the economy slowly improved and the nation made it peacefully through a divisive presidential election, the year will be remembered largely for tragedies both nationally and locally.
Nationally, 2012 brought the terrible massacres in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. The scope and the senselessness of these brutal attacks shock the conscience and leave us dumbfounded as to why the suspects could see these massacres as a reasonable way to express their grievances.
Sadly, attacks by gunmen were not limited to these major crimes. It seems almost daily that we hear of another incident somewhere in the United States in which a person - often a family member or a police officer - has been killed by gunfire.
Violent acts also have dealt a blow to the area. Just as we were getting ready to celebrate Christmas, three murders by a suspect who later died in a shootout with police dampened the joy of the holidays.
Kimberly A. Scott of Duncansville was decorating for a Christmas party at the Juniata Valley Gospel Church when she was struck by a bullet fired by Jeffrey Lee Michael, 44, of Hollidaysburg.
Michael then fatally shot Kenneth Lynn and his son-in-law, William Rhodes Jr., both of Geeseytown, before dying in a gun battle with state police.
A little more than a month earlier, another horrible crime - this time an arson - took the life of 3-year-old Darrel "D.J." Etchison Jr.
D.J., his mother and 2-year-old sister were sleep upstairs in their East End home, when Aaron Wilson Dishong broke in and set the living room ablaze, allegedly in an attempt to kill a former girlfriend. The ex-paramour had stayed there but was not there the night of the fire.
While his mother and sister were able to escape, D.J. was trapped in the house. City firefighters rescued him, but he died later at the hospital.
Dishong later killed himself in the Blair County Prison.
Regrettably, these weren't the only families grieving over lives cut short.
Neal Hammond, 15, of the Everett area was killed when he and two friends were playing with a handgun in July. Neal died after being shot in the head.
A similar situation, just days ago, claimed the life of another teenager. Jesse T. McElhinney, 16, of Altoona died Wednesday after being shot by a gun brought to his residence by a friend. Again, it appears playing with the gun led to the tragic outcome.
The deaths of these teenagers are reminders about the need to always treat guns like they are loaded and ready to fire, a lesson even experienced gun owners need to keep in mind.
Bob Ginter, 48, of Altoona, a experienced hunter, was found dead in May in his home after a handgun he was handling inexplicably went off.
All the families of the victims have our sympathies on their losses. For them and too many others, 2012 has been an emotionally painful year.
No one knows what 2013 will bring. But we hope the pattern of murders and gun accidents that have stained 2012 will not be repeated.
Peace on Earth is a common sentiment during the holiday season. Let each of us do our best to make sure that's our reality in the new year.