Top 20 Stories That Have Made News Headlines

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Over the years, there have been stories in the news that have shocked and stunned the American public, and indeed, people around the world.

Tales of injustice, triumphs, scandals and lies, all of them have captured the collective imagination, and we’ve followed them avidly in the media. Whether in sports, politics, war or peace, these are the stories that have shaped the world we live in today, and, like it or not, what makes us who and what we are.

Note: Pay less attention to the order of items.

20. 911


No one in New York, America, or indeed the world, will forget the day the twin towers tumbled to the floor, taking the lives of thousands, changing the New York City skyline forever, and leaving a scar on the psyche of the American public.

The attacks, allegedly by Middle Eastern terrorist groups, not only caused the twin towers to collapse, when they were struck by airplanes, but also took out a third building.

The events of September 11, 2001, changed not only the lives of the American people, but those of people the world over, with the US war on terror bringing with it thousands more fatalities, sweeping change to US security and foreign policy, and shattering the long held belief that the US was unassailable. And if the US can be targeted, so too can the rest of the world.

Indeed, since the events of September 11, ordinary citizens the world over are a little more fearful, sleep a little less easy, and worry a little more about the possibility of global war.

19. Hurricane Katrina


When Katrina swept through the American south in 2005, laying waste to New Orleans, devastating the Alabama and Mississippi coastlines, it was probably the most devastating storm in modern history.

Over one thousand seven hundred people died, and houses, businesses, national landmarks and scores of other buildings were destroyed. In fact, the rebuilding effort is still underway, four years on, with Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt throwing their weight behind the rejuvenation following this catastrophe.

18. The Death of Princess Diana


Known as the people’s princess, Diana, princess of Wales, nonetheless had a difficult life, which culminated in tragedy.

After marrying British heir to the crown, Prince Charles in 1980, Diana struggled through years of adultery and unhappiness. Discovering early on in her marriage that her husband was still in love with his former girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, now his wife, she endured numerous scandals, linking her, among others, to James Hewitt, and officer, and Will Carling, a British rugby player. Through it all, she was a devoted mother to her two boys, William and Harry, and gave ceaselessly of her time to charities around the world.

In spite of it all, she remained the queen of the public’s hearts, and when she and her lover, Dodi Al Fayed, heir to the Harrods empire, were killed in a car accident in Paris in 1997, allegedly after a chase by paparazzi, the world went into mourning.

Even more tragic was the fact that for the first time in a life filled with sadness, or certainly for many years, the princess had seemed happy with her new beau.

17. The 2004 Tsunami


No one could have predicted that in 2004, on the 26th of December, just a day after Christmas, an undersea earthquake would trigger a tsunami the likes of which we have not seen, nor, hopefully, will see again soon, in the Indian Ocean. Holiday makers in Thailand and surrounding countries and islands were caught completely unawares by this giant wave, leading to a death toll of over two hundred thousand, and costing international aid agencies over $6 billion.

Government authorities in the area have since installed seismic equipment to provide early warning of any future events, however, that’s little comfort to the families, around the world, of those who lost their lives that day.

16. Los Angeles Riots and Rodney King Beating


Decades after equality for all was established in the US, the 1991 beating of Rodney King, a parolee who had kept driving when requested to pull over, shocked the world, and highlighted the festering racism problem lying just under the surface of America’s beloved democracy.

In the video of the event, four white police officers were clearly seen to brutally beat and kick the helpless King. When they were acquitted despite this overwhelming evidence, it caused a race related riot, which left fifty people dead.

15. The Explosion of Challenger


Ever since the 1960’s, NASA had been on a mission to complete a number of firsts in the space race. The launch of challenger was no different, with the goal of making Christa McAuliff the first teacher in space. That dream was shattered just seventy three seconds after the launch, when the shuttle carrying her, and six others, towards space, exploded.

In 2003, the explosion of Columbia, which also killed all seven aboard, echoed the earlier disaster, once again highlighting the fallibility of the space program.

14.Monica Seles Stabbed in Action


The world looked on in horror in 1993, when top tennis player Monica Seles was stabbed, on court, during a match, by a fanatical fan of her rival, Steffi Graf.

Seles went on to recover, and enjoy a successful career, but this event proved once more the danger to sports stars from fans that are a little too invested in their favorite players or teams. Other sports related horrors have included riots that killed many at soccer matches, and a host of other needless tragedies.

Remember – it’s only a game!

13. Able Bodied Team in Paralympics Shocker


In 2000, the world was again shocked by sports, this time when the Spanish Paralympics basket ball team was revealed to be made up of ten able bodied, and only two disabled players.

One of the players revealed that they were told to “pretend to be stupid.” Their ruse was discovered shortly after the games, and they were forced to return their medals.

12. Nancy Kerrigan attacks


Last, but certainly not least from the world of sports, was the story of Nancy Kerrigan, who was brutally attacked, in 1994, and clubbed in the knee by a thug hired by the ex husband of Tonya Harding, one of her main competitors.

Despite the attack, Kerrigan went on to win the silver in the Winter Games at Lillehammer that year, and many future successes. Harding, on the other hand, was found guilty of lying to the investigators on the case, and banned for life from the sport of figure skating. She briefly ventured into the world of women’s professional boxing, with little success, and has since been in trouble with the law again.

11. Nelson Mandela Walks Free


After 27 years of incarceration as a political prisoner by the apartheid regime in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, heralding a new era in that country’s history.

Just four short years later, he becomes the first democratically elected president of South Africa, and a global political and philanthropic icon. He has since used this fame to promote the fight against AIDS, with his 46664 campaign, and children’s rights through his Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund charity. He also received a joint Nobel Peace Prize with FW De Klerk, the president responsible for finally releasing him, and setting the African country on the road to democracy.

10. Pan Am Flight 103


In 1988, the Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland. Two hundred and seventy people were aboard, and one hundred and eighty nine of those were Americans, returning home for the holidays.

It was uncovered that a former Libyan secret service agent had planted a bomb, in a suitcase, on the plane, which lead to the crash. He was later convicted, and the Libyan government has since accepted responsibility for his actions.

9. Waco Texas Cult Incident


In 1993, after a fifty one day standoff with the FBI at the Branch Davidian cult compound, just outside Waco, Texas, the entire compound exploded in an enormous fireball.

The FBI had been spraying tear gas into the compound, attempting to arrest the cult leader, David Koresh, when the Davidians began firing on the officers. Shortly thereafter, the building was engulfed in flame, killing eighty members of the cult.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the Davidians had started the fire, and possibly, that the stockpiled weapons and explosives had contributed to the blast.

8. The Gulf War


In 1991, years before George W. Bush declared war on terror, George Bush Senior sent US troops into Iraq, when Saddam Hussein, dictatorial ruler of that country, invaded Kuwait, and refused to withdraw his forces.

The war lasted a very short while, but long enough to lose he lives of one hundred and forty eight US troops, and was a precursor to the eventual war in Iraq, which has claimed countless more, both US citizens, and Iraqis.

7. The OJ Simpson Murder Trial


In 1994, OJ Simpson made news with the murder trial that captivated the world for months.

Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were discovered, butchered, and the former NFL star and actor was the prime suspect. A highlight of the trial was the chase, where Simpson refused to pull over, and led the police in a widely televised chase in his white Bronco.

Due to technicalities, the star was eventually acquitted, although the public largely maintained a belief in his innocence. The family of Nicole Brown sued Simpson civilly, and he has since been accused of stealing sports memorabilia in Las Vegas.

6. The Iraqi War


Never has America been involved in a war so destructive. Not since Vietnam anyway.

Following the initial attack on Iraq, and the eventual capture of Saddam Hussein, long an enemy of America, and the dictatorial leader who oppressed millions in his own country, the war should have ended.

However, although it has resulted in the execution of Hussein for his crimes, the battles continue to rage in Iraq, as insurgents continue to oppose the US lead forces. Since 2003, the war has raged unabated, killing thousands, costing millions, if not billions, and proving, once again, the futility of war.

We can but hope that a resolution is found soon.

5. The Fall of The Berlin Wall


Built shortly after the second world war, as a means to separate the communist East Germany from the non communist West, the Berlin wall stood for decades, separating a nation, and the families that lived in Germany when it was first erected by communist leaders.

Not only was the falling of the wall in 1989 a symbol of the reunification of Germany, it was symbolic of the end of communism, and the Cold War that had struck terror into the hearts of millions the world over for years.

If only that sentiment had taught the world, and its leaders something. Instead, after the euphoria was over, it was business as usual, power mongering, allowing sometimes petty squabbles to escalate into outright war, claiming the lives of millions of innocent bystanders.

4. Chernobyl


Despite warnings, an accident in 1986 at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant at Chernobyl caused the nuclear reactor to explode.

Radioactive fallout was sent over large parts of Europe, and over three hundred and thirty people had to be relocated. Since then, those living in the area surrounding the former plant have been plagued by disease, deformity and birth defects.

Yet another good indication that while nuclear power is an option, it shouldn’t be. The failure of a wind farm, or solar power generation plant would never result in such a catastrophe.

3. The Columbine Massacre


While the world battles, people die in wars, attacks and from dreadful diseases, we would like to think that our kids are safe at school at least.

That dearly held belief was shattered in 1999 however, when Eric Harris and Dylan Kebold walked into Columbine High School, near Denver in Collorado, and massacred twelve of their peers, and a teacher, before turning their guns on themselves, committing suicide.

A few years later, a similar incident at Virginia Tech claimed the lives of thirty three innocent bystanders, once again highlighting a disturbing trend towards violence in American youth.

2. The Rwandan Genocide


The 1994 government sponsored slaughter of over five hundred thousand people in Rwanda, within the space of around one hundred days, was surely one of the global community’s greatest shames.

Despite global media and news coverage of the atrocities being carried out as the two racial groups battled each other, the international community did nothing to stop the killing.

A few years on, and the Darfur crisis proved that nothing was learnt from that tragedy, as the war torn Sudanese region continues to self destruct unabated.

1. Same Sex Marriage Legalized in Massachusetts


Given the atrocities that have made it onto this list, the murders, wars, attacks and other inhuman acts, it almost seems ironic that gay marriage should make it onto the top twenty headlines list, however, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of legalizing same sex marriage in 2003, it sparked a media and political frenzy.

Just a year later, eleven other states had passed bans on same sex unions, in retaliation.

One has to ask, however, in a world so dominated by terrible things, bloodshed, disease and scandal, whether the right to commit to one’s partner, whether same sex or otherwise, should be a matter of national news coverage at all.