“Good Lord, how many times have I typed the words “cruise ships” and “COVID” in the past year?”

I was talking to myself while scrolling through the past year’s 51 issues of the Key West Weekly  for our annual Year in Review features, the ones all newspapers tend to do in the last week of December.  (The issue you’re reading was yet to be assembled.)

All three of our Keys Weekly editors — Jimmy McCarthy in the Upper Keys and Alex Rickert in Marathon — were doing the same, scrolling, copying, pasting and scribbling notes to ourselves, although those guys probably don’t have the same long-winded conversations with themselves as I. 

My news trip back through 2021 reminded me of all the good, bad and the ugly that has occurred in our fair island city since we all hung our hopes on 2021 last December. In fact, our final newspaper of 2020 summed it up nicely on the cover, saying “Peace Out, 2020. It’s been real, but not real fun.”

We were all so convinced 2021 would be different, better, or at least back to normal (whatever that is in Key West). 

And things actually started out on a positive note here in the Keys, as vaccines trickled into the island chain. Of course, that good news was tempered by the state’s inadequate online system that had people waking at 4 a.m. in an attempt to secure a precious vaccine appointment for a senior citizen overwhelmed by the process.

In this issue, we take you through the second year of COVID, with mask mandates, vaccine debates and everything else. (See page 9.)

But we can’t forget the other great debate that divided our island in 2021: Cruise ships. 

Let’s see…In 2021, politicians voided the Key West vote to ban most cruise ships from all three Key West docks, one of which is privately owned. So city officials decided to turn the referendums into ordinances with the help of an outside attorney, who warned against restricting the operations of a private business. Tensions rose. Accusations flew. Social media seethed. And then the first ships returned in late November. 

Recall it all on pages 12-14.

We also compiled some of our most popular online and social media posts (page 21) and some of our notable interviews and podcast guests from the past year — politicians, musicians, community leaders, comedians and others who generously shared their time (page 7).

As we again hang our hopes for something better in 2022, let’s all do our part. Maybe we think twice about engaging with an idiot on social media. Maybe we just let his uninformed and intentionally incendiary comment pass. Maybe we just let it go.

Maybe we do what’s best for ourselves and our loved ones, while letting everyone else do the same, knowing our opinions are unlikely to change anyone’s minds, especially on social media. But perhaps our silence on some (OK, many) occasions will encourage others to do the same. We now know that Facebook intentionally tries to make us angry, so why fall victim to it? We need not attend every argument to which we’re invited. 

Let’s start there for 2022 and see what happens. In the meantime, enjoy this look back through another “year like no other,” and above all, Happy New Year, Key West.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.