The wrenching sorrow of tragedies on a Virginia campus, a Minnesota highway bridge and deep inside a Utah coal mine is compounded by a question that echoes: Could this have been prevented?
Thousands lose their homes in a mortgage and credit crisis that worsened despite repeated assurances that the worst had passed.
Every year has grim headlines. But the story of 2007 was the frustration that wound through so much of the news. Americans repeatedly confronted the same images and the same misgivings in many of the year's biggest stories.
The frustration factor was personified by former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, at the vortex of criticism over the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. When the story began around the New Year, most would have figured it as a mildly sensational, fairly routine political brouhaha.
Then it stretched into the spring and summer, with an endless loop of Gonzales' vaguely apologetic denials. Called before Congress in April, he found more than 70 ways to say he could not remember what had happened. Any day now, pundits speculated, Gonzales could take the fall.
By the time Gonzales finally did resign effective in September, the focus on right or wrong had largely been replaced by a grinding frustration over why resolution any resolution had taken so long. Even when it ended, it did so without clarity.
That story was hardly unique. After a while it became difficult to separate the frustration built into many of the year's biggest news stories from a public mood of resigned exasperation.
Were we frustrated by the events themselves, or was our frustration reflected in our reaction to them?
That frustration made it difficult to recall that 2007 had started with a mix of uncertainty and possibility.
Voters deeply dissatisfied with the Bush administration had signaled a strong desire for a new direction and invested those hopes in opposition Democrats.
"The election of 2006 was a call to change," Rep. Nancy Pelosi proclaimed as she led her party into leadership of the House in January. "The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end."
But the war has stretched well into a fifth year, with troops no closer to an exit. And in early November, troop deaths made 2007 the deadliest year for American troops since the war began.
The number of attacks, deaths and injuries dropped off sharply in recent months, but the improvement did little to revise the public perceptions.
Opinion polls reflected public frustration with the inability of lawmakers to bring the war any nearer to an end, a feeling acknowledged by Pelosi.
"If you asked me in a phone call, as ardent a Democrat as I am, I would disapprove of Congress as well," she told reporters.