Since I’ve been a Times-News reporter since only November, this “looking back on 2017” column is going to be a bit different than my fellow reporters’.

It’s been a hectic first month getting to know the Magic Valley area and settling into the rhythm of breaking news — of which there is no shortage in the Magic Valley. In the weeks since I touched down in Twin Falls, I’ve met countless friendly faces, seen more breathtaking nature than in 23 years on the East Coast, and cut down a tree against my will.

Although I don’t have many to choose from, a couple of stories in particular from these first few weeks stand out.

Most recently, this past Monday, I had the opportunity to spend Christmas in the Jerome County Jail. I was expecting, truthfully, a somewhat depressing experience — but found just the opposite. I was blown away by the ability of the men and women inside to find some joy in the little blessings of the day — free phone calls to families, a nicer meal than usual — despite their circumstances.

Another story stands out not because of the joy in it, but the immense sadness.

On Dec. 5, a call about a trailer on fire came over the scanner. In the days that followed, we learned that the blaze — started accidentally by a pet cat — had taken the life of 2-year-old Cassandra Luckey, who recently moved to Idaho with her parents and older sister after the family lost their home in Hurricane Harvey.

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It was impossible to imagine the pain that Shawn Luckey and Meredith Menard — wonderful people by all accounts — must be feeling. But the response from their new neighbors, including the emails that poured into my inbox from concerned readers asking how they could help, struck me as a testament to the strong community in Twin Falls and the surrounding area.

I look forward to getting to know that community better.

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