The Most Unforgettable Stories of 2008, a look backPosted: Updated:
They made history, they put us in the spotlight, they disturbed us, they shocked us, they terrified us and they saddened us.
All of them changed us and tonight a look back at the Unforgettable Stories from 2008.
We take you on a journey back, highlighting the ten biggest stories from 2008, the stories that were .
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A bus brawl was caught on tape.
February 15th things got out of control on a bus ride home from Williams Field High school in Gilbert.
Bus driver Kim Sullivan stopped the bus to tell 15-year-old Samantha Taylor to quiet down.
The request did not go over well and Taylor tried to get off the bus.
Sullivan refused to let the teenaged girl off which was a move the Higley School District defended.
Taylor refused to back down and as the bus driver called for back-up the girl called her mother.
Taylor handed her phone to the bus driver to talk to her mom, but instead the driver took the phone away.
And that's when things started to escalate.
It seemed as if Taylor realized she was being taped the entire time, even waving at the camera.
As things reached a boiling point the bus driver's daughter jumped in.
"Get the beep off my mom you beep, mom get off her, get off her, get off her, get off," she said.
Other students escaped the madness out an emergency exit. One made a call to 911.
After an intense investigation, only 15-year-old Samantha Taylor was charged for the brawl.
"Its a tough job to be a bus driver and when you have conduct like this the line needs to be drawn and the law needs to be enforced," County Attorney Andre Thomas said.
"It's like I'm the worst person in the world for doing what I did," Taylor said.
A juvenile court judge sentenced Taylor to 24 hours of community service and required she write a three-page essay on her goals in life.
According to the teen's mom it has been a life-changing experience.
On April 3 Texas rangers descended on a 1700 acre compound just outside the small community of El Dorado, Texas, north east of San Antonio.
A raid that finally put polygamy in to the national spotlight.
More than 450 children and women were removed from the YFZ Ranch, a compound believed to be occupied by the followers of the so-called polygamous prophet Warren Jeffs.
A Texas judge ordered 416 children into state custody and CPS decided to separate the mothers from their children, unless they were under five.
The raid and the national attention it received had people across the country calling for action.
It was an apparent victory for those who had been fighting polygamy for years.
"God bless Texas for protecting these kids," Flora Jessop said.
But after several hearings and appeals, the Texas Supreme Court ruled state officials had over-stepped their bounds in the raid.
Most of the children were returned to their parents.
But the ruling was not a complete vindication for the FLDS community the court said individual cases of abuse would still be investigated and a judge imposed strict restrictions.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada called for a hearing on the issue.
"The lawless conduct of polygamous communities in the united states deserved national attention," Reid said.
Several experts and former polygamists testified at the hearing.
"Obviously if there is evidence of criminal activity it is investigated," FLDS attorney Jim Bradshaw said. "You don't need a specific hearing to target a group of people the idea of profiling or targeting people because of how they worship, it's un-American."< /p>
While all this continues in Texas polygamous leader Warren Jeffs remains behind bars in Kingman awaiting trial here in Arizona for sexual conduct with a minor.
The Texas raid perked the attention of Arizona prosecutors wondering if anything seized at the ranch may help their case.
Journals, marriage and birth certificates and even pictures of Jeffs with what looked like underage girls were removed from the compound.
Jeffs' Arizona attorney is fighting evidence seized in Texas should not be allowed in Arizona.
As a result of the raid Jeffs has also been indicted by a grand jury in Texas along with nine other polygamous men.
The court battles may be far from over, but it seems so too is polygamy.
Two of the Valley's top political leaders spent much of this year sparring.
At the center of the debate between Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio were the crime sweeps conducted by the sheriff's deputies.
"Civil rights are being trampled on, racial profiling is going on," Mayor Gordon said.
The sweeps started in central Phoenix and drew hundreds of protesters from both sides.
Sheriff Arpaio explained he was conducting crime suppression operations in areas under his jurisdiction.
But he also told a 3TV photographer the sweeps had another purpose.
"I gotta go, I got an illegal immigration operation going here," the Sheriff said.
Following another crime sweep in north Phoenix, the mayor decided to take action sending a letter to the FBI asking them to investigate whether the Sheriff's tactics were constitutional.
It was a move that didn't seem to slow the Sheriff down.
"I'll tell you one thing, if he thinks he's keeping me out of Phoenix," Arpaio said. "I got news for him because I will return."< /p>
Eight Valley bishops sent a letter to the Sheriff asking him to stop his sweeps, but again the Sheriff refused.
He took his crime suppression operations on the road hitting Guadalupe and Cave Creek.
But when the Sheriff decided to take his crime sweep into Mesa he met new opposition when he refused to tell the Mesa Police Department where he planned to set up shop.
"It does seem like a game, but you know it shouldn't be because it's a very serious issue," said Sgt. Sabian Cota with the Mesa Police Association.
"We told him we were going to be in the City of Mesa, and that's where we were at," the Sheriff said.
"Really all we're trying to do is ensure everyone's safety, that's the sad part," Cota said. "I mean we're all in the same business together."
"He's created a sanctuary county for felons with his wreckless priorities that target brown skinned and cracked tail lights instead of killers and drug dealers," Gordon said.
All along Valley residents have stood firmly on each side of the issue.
It seems as long as both are in office and as long as the crime sweeps continue these two will continue to disagree.
A flash flood in one of our states most popular tourist spots puts hundreds of lives in danger.
On August 16 after two days of heavy rains, water storms through parts of the Grand Canyon.
In its path, the popular tourist spot Havasu and the Supai Village.
Many people were trapped and the falls, known for their blue-green beauty, turned a muddy shade of brown right before the campers' eyes.
And as they tried to escape the rising water many had their video cameras rolling.
Some people made their way to a cemetery on higher ground where they waited to be rescued.
DPS and National Guard helicopters were brought in to take people out of the canyon.
Amazingly everyone was able to escape the floodwaters.
When all was said and done more than 250 people were rescued by helicopters.
"It was a wall of water," Governor Napolitano said. "If they hadn't been on the ball, hadn't been in there, hadn't gotten people out of there I could very well be standing here before you saying this is the number of bodies we've recovered."
It was a nail-biter, but in the end the New York Giants pulled out a last minute touchdown to beat the undefeated New England Patriots.
In February 2 all eyes were on the Valley for Super Bowl XVII.
Football fans and party lovers flocked to the Valley.
From Scottsdale, which seemed to be celeb party central, to Glendale where fans enjoyed the restaurants and bars right by the stadium.
But for just about everyone, making money was the bottom line.
Many Valley residents rented their homes out.
But they weren't the only ones looking for an economic gain from the influx of visitors to the Valley.
Stores and restaurants were also expecting to see some cash.
A fiscal impact report conducted by Valley economist Elliott Pollack found Glendale made $1.2 million from out of state visitors.
But the city paid nearly three times that to get the big game.
Still Glendale officials said it was worth it.
"I heard what sounded like a sonic boom, an explosion," one witness said.
A mid-air collision over the skies of Flagstaff happened June 29th. Two medical helicopters crashed about a half-mile from the Flagstaff Medical Center where they were both heading.
The wreckage landed in a wooded area as Good Samaritans rushed to help.
"When I arrived there were nothing but civilians, people of Flagstaff frantically trying to save lives," said Shannon Pearly.
Six people died in the crash, but one lone survivor, a flight nurse was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Unfortunately, five days after the collision, he died from his injuries.
The tragic accident hit hard for the relatives of the seven men on board and also for the state of Arizona.
As the community gathered to say goodbye they promised to never forget.
"Seven friends gave the ultimate sacrifice, did it change the world? Maybe, did it change the lives of everyone they knew and helped, absolutely," from the memorial service. "I believe god has a special place for these heroes and I know we will always hold a special place for them in our hearts."
A holiday ski trip ended in catastrophe.
On January 6 a tour bus carrying 51 people from a ski trip in Telluride, Colorado back to the Valley rolled off a freeway near Mexican Hat, Utah.
It took hours for rescue crews to reach the remote location.
Investigators believe the 71-year-old bus driver was speeding through the mountain pass when he lost control.
The roof was ripped right off and nearly all of the people on board were thrown from the bus.
Nine people died, including several Valley students and several families were ripped apart.
"He goes, you know mom, I'm on a bus in the middle of nowhere," said Celia Edwards, victim's mother. "He says we're supposed to be in at 5 am, can I call you tomorrow. If I would have known that was going to be the last time I talked to him I would have said so much more."
But it was some of the survivors who had the hardest time.
"I'm lucky to be here and I'm lucky to be alive," said survivor Rick Scarborough. "There's nothing more and then I feel guilty that I'm here and I'm alive."
It was a tragic accident that forever changed dozens of lives.
America suffers the worst economic meltdown since the great depression.
The year started with skyrocketing gas prices, a housing crisis and quickly turned to government bailouts and a struggling stock market.
According to one study, prices as the pump forced 75% of people to change their driving habits.
By June gas in the Valley hit $4 a gallon.
In an effort to help, the government sent out stimulus checks.
"This money is going to help off-set the high money people are spending at the gas pump and the grocery store," President Bush said.
One of the first indications of what was to come was the housing market crisis, which started last year and hit the Valley especially hard.
As home values dropped and more and more homes went into foreclosure, the bubble burst.
Rate cuts by the Federal Reserve weren't enough to stimulate a sluggish housing market, so the government finally stepped in with a $700 billion dollar, controversial, bailout.
"It's a tough situation to be in and the average guy has a right to be ticked, because he's being asked to pay for those people who were not responsible," economist Elliott Pollack said.
But the bailout didn't pass on it's first try, triggering a meltdown on Wall Street.
It was the Dow Jones biggest one day loss in two decades, closing down nearly 778 points.
And ever since it seems the stock market has been struggling.
"The last time the financial system de-stabilized, they called it the Great Depression," ASU economist Tracy Clark said.
Not a depression, but finally after months of avoidance the National Bureau of Economic Researchannounced that we were in fact in a recession and had been since last December, the longest economic slump since 1981, 82.
These tough times have been especially hard on families.
According to one report, 76% middle class households are not financially secure and many are at risk of falling out of the middle class.
Another stress, unemployment as the jobless rate hit a 34 year high in November at 6.7 percent.
Meanwhile, right here in Arizona, we are facing our own challenges including dealing with more than a million dollar budget shortfall.
Phoenix, as well as several other Valley cities, is looking at ways to cut back.
Libraries, parks and even fire and police departments may be affected.
So are there any benefits to theses tough times??
"If there is a silver lining, it's that for every one person that sees they have to sell something at a huge loss, another person sees an opportunity to buy something at a good value," Pollack said.
It seems we are all just waiting and hoping for our light at the end of the tunnel.
A double murder in a small Arizona town would be shocking on its own, but when police charged a small boy with the crime it was almost too much for the small eastern Arizona town of Saint Johns to handle.
November 5th Saint Johns police were called to a local home where they found Vincent Romero and Tim Romans dead.
Both had been shot several times with a 22-calibur rifle.
The next day, Romero's eight-year-old son was brought in for questioning.
The interview began with the boy claiming came home to find both men shot, but soon shocking admissions from the boy with the little voice.
"I called my dad and then I called him and then I got my gun and I fired it at my dad," he said.
By the time the hour long interview wrapped up, the child had become the accused.
But no sooner than the interview tapes were released, were people calling foul.
"This child probably had no idea that he was being interrogated, or that he was being questioned," Andre Grant said.
Investigators claim they began the interview without an adult present or reading the boy his rights, because they believed he was a victim.
But the interview apparently convinced police the murders were premeditated and the boy was charged with two counts of first degree murder.
The prosecution shocked everyone by filing a motion to drop one of the murder charges against the boy.
"They know that the confession that he gave to the police is totally inadmissible therefore they have to go back and get other evidence," Judge Steven Gerst said.
And then there was buzz about a plea deal, but at a status conference earlier this month the judge said he would make no rulings the boy's mental competency evaluations are completed.
The judge went onto say the justice system was not equipped to handle an eight-year-old accused of murder.
It seems just about everyone has an opinion on what to do with the little boy accused of two brutal murders.
The bottom line is no matter where it happened or how this all turns out, this is one case that has already made its way into the pages of Arizona history.
It was an election year in the making, an election that would make history.
"Tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America," President-elect Barack Obama said.
The race for the white house began with more than a dozen candidates.
After getting off to a rough start, Senator John McCain emerged the Republican winner.
But the race to be the Democratic nominee was a long, hard fought battle between senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
By early June, Senator Clinton who was once the favorite had lost the nomination to Senator Obama.
There was plenty of concern that a long and contentious race between the Democrats had left a rift in the party.
A rift Democrats looked to Senator Clinton to mend during the national convention in Denver.
Senator Clinton made one more unheard of move to show her support for Senator Obama by stopping the state by state roll call and moving to make Barack Obama the nominee of the Democratic Party.
Also taking the DNC stage was our own governor Janet Napolitano, a long time supporter of Barack Obama.
On the last day of the convention, Obama made his position clear.
"It's time for us to change America and that's why I'm running for President of the United States," he said.
The day after the Democratic Convention wrapped up Arizona Senator John McCain stole the spotlight with an announcement of his own.
In a shocking move, he picked virtual unknown Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate.
The following week at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul all eyes were on the Alaskan governor.
A warm convention reception was soon overshadowed by the news that Palin's 17-year-old un-wed daughter was pregnant.
On the last day of the Republican Convention Senator McCain told voters what he would bring to the table.
"To the old, big spending, country second crowd, change is coming," he said.
With six weeks left before the elections, the two man race was on and one topic was hot.
"It's the economy, it's the economy, it's the economy," said Dr. Rudy Espino, an ASU economic professor.
In the home stretch, the gloves came off.
In the 2008 elections, the internet and text messaging were used like never before.
It was also an election where Saturday Night Live became a source of political news.
But for voters, it seemed to come down to a phrase we heard time and time again, "You don't have the right to complain, if you don't come out and vote in the first place."
And vote they did, in long lines and in record numbers.
In the end Democratic candidate Barack Obama won decisively.
Senator McCain gave his concession speech right here in Phoenix.
"We have come to the end of a long journey, the American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly," McCain said. "Whether they supported me or Senator Obama, I wish god speed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president."
The 2008 elections were historic in many ways, not the least of which was the election of America's first African American president.
I have 2 daughters and I tell them all the time that you can be anything you want to be in America, but I never really believed it, but after yesterday, I believe that.
Now Barack Obama is poised to take over the country at a critical time.
"We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime, two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," Obama said.
The only question left now, how will our new president handle it??