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2014: The year Minnesotans' bravery amid tragedy inspired millions

Bravery is inspirational. Seeing others endure, thrive, and laugh during difficult times moves people, and resonates in a way few other stories manage to do. But there's also something tragic about bravery: To be fearless and inspire others, there must be something worth fearing in the first place. Bravery can't exist without tragedy, so these tales become about two sides to the same coin: The inspiring strength to power forward, while acknowledging the very real, often unimaginable circumstance.
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This is the third in a series of five posts discussing 2014's most impactful stories in Minnesota. It's a look at where we were, what we went through, and where we find ourselves now – with a glimpse at what to expect in 2015. Check back for the remaining two as the week goes on. 

Bravery is inspirational.

Seeing others endure, thrive, and laugh during difficult times moves people, and resonates in a way few other stories manage to do.

But there's also something tragic about bravery: To be fearless and inspire others, there must be something worth fearing in the first place.

Bravery can't exist without tragedy, so these tales become about two sides to the same coin: The inspiring strength to power forward, while acknowledging the very real, often unimaginable circumstance.

Brave Minnesota

In 2014, the stories of Minnesotans showing true bravery while standing face-to-face with tragedy shone bright in times of darkness, and had as big of an impact on Minnesotans as arguably anything else this year.

We watched Steve McKee, who fended off cancer and watched from matside as his son, Mitchell McKee won a state wrestling title. And afterward, Mitchell and his opponent, Malik Stewart, walked over and embraced the ailing man.

We read about Aaron Purmort, whose seizure and crash in northeast Minneapolis last spring led to a true Minnesota Nice moment. Nine months later, he walked with true grace and strength toward death, his wife Nora and their young child beside him.

We tracked the recovery of Isaac Kolstad, starting with those early minutes after an attack in May when he was "fighting for his life"; to his encouraging thumbs-up and first time holding his newborn daughter.

We sang along with Zach Sobiech, thousands of us, long after he was gone, while his strength – captured in his original song "Clouds" – continued to motivate others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsAVku2JaAs

Their stories (and many others not mentioned here) prompted tears and reflection, but also laughter. And a hope that one day – if faced with the same – we will handle it as admirably as they did.

The connecting Web

It's becoming easier than ever to be empathetic. With social media, online blogs and Web journals, outsiders are capable of being there for each step of the journey – whether it's one forward, two back, or somewhere inbetween.

About 43 million people visited CaringBridge in 2013; more than half a million people pull up the site every day.

Donation pages for those recovering from tragedy or coping with a loss are exploding. GoFundMe has raised $620 million since its inception in 2010; YouCaring has tallied $163 million. Last year, online giving was up 13.5 percent from the year before – while overall giving increased by just 4.9 percent, Forbes reported.

If 2014 showed us anything, maybe it's that the Web doesn't have to be used as a vessel for anonymous attacks.

Maybe technology can actually amplify emotional bonds and strengthen human connection, not disintegrate them.

If the response from Minnesotans this past year is any indication, that may be exactly where we're headed.

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