FOR MORE THAN a decade, I’ve been assigned to write the opening essay of the year for Pacific NW magazine. That meant everything from writing about Seattle’s dramatic transformation from 2008 to 2018 to a look ahead at the new decade.

For that last one, I went in-depth on a nation more divided than at any time since the eve of the Civil War. But I missed the big danger: a global pandemic, especially one made much worse by the mismanagement of the Trump administration.

Cover story: So we finally made it through 2020. Um … now what?

This year’s essay attempts to take stock of where the year 2021 might take us. The stakes are high: for the world, the nation and Seattle.

As I wrote, vaccines for COVID-19 were speeding through regulatory approval. We have a scary winter to endure, but for the first time, we can see a path to taming this plague.

Joe Biden was poised to become the next president, bringing much-needed faith in science, and determination to invest in infrastructure and research, to the White House. Decency, too. Yet he likely will face a Republican-controlled Senate determined to see him fail.

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Plywood is slowly coming down from windows of businesses in Seattle, which witnessed not only a collapse of commerce from the pandemic but numerous protests demanding racial justice and changes to policing. Unfortunately, many of these were tarnished by small groups determined to loot and burn. For weeks, the city entirely lost control of a section of Capitol Hill.

After this annus horribilis of 2020, our once “superstar city” is badly wounded and divided.

The new year won’t entirely answer the question of whether we return to normal — or a new normal, where Seattle could be a big loser.

The unknown future spools ahead of us. But we’re not helpless. We can make it better.