Across the country and around the globe, 2018 was a year of enduring complex conflicts. The effects of climate change escalated natural disasters, and the uniquely American cycle of gun violence continued. Yet disparate communities still found ways to connect. A royal wedding brought two nations together. There were trials and elections. It was called the “Year of the Woman.”
As this year ends and another begins, 2018’s most profound pictures offer a window into what just happened — and what it meant for us.
By wind, water and fire, natural disasters made history and brought widespread destruction. Still recovering from Hurricane Matthew two years ago, Carolina communities were again inundated by 1,000-year floodwaters when Hurricane Florence hit this fall. In Florida, Hurricane Michael swept from sea to land as a Category 4 storm, the worst on record to hit the Panhandle. The Camp Fire — the deadliest, most destructive in state history — burned scars into Northern California while two other blazes smoldered in the south. And in Indonesia, back-to-back disasters killed at least 2,250 people when a surprise tsunami followed a 7.5-magnitude earthquake.
Movement, in clusters and masses, carried people to the hope of new homes after fleeing old ones. Their journeys were long, dangerous and taxing — particularly for the children. Migrants traveled from South and Central America to the U.S. border with Mexico and fled the wars of Congo to neighboring Uganda. Syrians remained displaced, returning to homes that no longer exist. They were all part of the hundreds of millions of people already living outside the countries in which they were born.
Amid division, people found joy in shared experiences: the World Cup in Russia, the Stanley Cup in the United States, the Pyeongchang Olympics, and even at Coachella in California, where Beyoncé became the first woman of color to headline the music festival. With the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the United Kingdom welcomed a biracial American princess. We were captivated by space — and NASA put the InSight lander on Mars.
The second year of President Trump’s administration was marked by the same fluidity as the first. At least 17 people were fired or resigned, including Cabinet members and top aides. Relationships with foreign governments were tested. The country was roiled by the nomination, and eventual confirmation, of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teens, and both testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A month later, a record number of Americans voted in the midterm elections — and a record number of women won their bids for Congress.
Violence persisted across the globe and close to home. In Zimbabwe, historic, hopeful elections after 37 years of the same ruler began peacefully but turned deadly. The years-long conflict within Syria, which has left close to half a million dead and millions more displaced, continued. In South Sudan, child soldiers were released into society through a reintegration program, and in Yemen, an estimated 85,000 have starved to death since 2015. The turmoil between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza is ongoing. In America, mourning families waited for the bodies of loved ones to return home from far-off wars.
The year was bookended by deadly mass shootings and filled in between with the kind of everyday gun violence that kills an average of 96 Americans a day. Protests of police violence that disproportionately affects communities of color persisted. In Parkland, Fla., Valentine’s Day began with tokens of love at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and ended in bloodshed. Seventeen teachers and teenagers were shot dead, allegedly by a former student. In October, 11 people were gunned down while worshiping at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Twelve days later, 13 people were killed in a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
In the United States, a year of tension over our systems of power made room for groups and individuals to speak up — in the streets, at the Supreme Court, in courtrooms across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the nation’s capital last spring for the March for Our Lives, a protest against gun violence and in support of gun control. Powerful men in politics and pop culture fell from grace as allegations of sexual misconduct, drawn out by the #MeToo movement, were finally heard. Stormy Daniels appeared on “60 Minutes.” Americans cast their votes, the results affirming 2018 as the “Year of the Woman.”