Natural disasters have brought both heartbreak and inspiration as people worldwide and in our own area have joined together to help the survivors. Controversies rage over the continuing U.S. presence in Iraq and over President Bush's domestic policies. Statewide, the Pennsylvania Legislature's pay-raise outrage (and its subsequent repeal) has been what got most people talking ... and writing letters, and demonstrating...

But this newspaper is all about local stories, so The Phoenix's Top 10 Stories of 2005 have been selected from the stories that have most greatly affected local people's lives. The first five included the borough takeover of trash collection, downtown revitalization, P.J. Cramer's alleged robbery spree, the Friendship Field sale, and local residents' efforts to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

Although some people who know Chad Myers and his relatives have complained that his saga should not have been rehashed, what the majority of people took away from his story, retold on Tuesday, was the fact that a dangerous man who had fought with and shot at constables, escaping from their custody and carjacking a passerby, was caught by police and eventually sentenced to prison for his actions. That is indeed a good resolution for an incident that easily could have turned out deadly.

Wednesday's story, about a fatal beating in February that arose from a situation involving drugs and money, was important because violent death always deserves our attention, and because it reminds us of the fact that although Phoenixville is generally safer than it has been in the last decade, improvements still need to be made.

Unfortunately, today's story, about the murder of Alana MacNeil by her stepfather, who subsequently committed suicide, is certain to distress some people by stirring up tragic memories. It is in no way our intention to sensationalize the tragedy by bringing it up again; however, given the large number of people who cared for Alana MacNeil and were affected by her murder, it would be remiss not to include this in The Phoenix's Top 10 Stories of 2005. In hopes of bringing some good out of all this, donation information for her memorial scholarship fund appears at the end of the story.

Of the two remaining stories in the series, one will be about changes in the local political landscape, and the other will be about the evolution of a major service provider in the community.

A caller has suggested that this newspaper should write about the 10 best things that happened in Phoenixville throughout 2005. That would be a bit too repetitive, especially since the current series includes several good-news stories, but The Phoenix would be happy to print readers' submissions of such lists.

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