18 Notable Past Events Which Caused Sadness or Joy

The past is a tricky thing for humans. We can learn from it and better ourselves, which is great. Some people are unable to forget painful past experiences – leaving them depressed, sad, or angry. Not so great. Personally, I think I stand somewhere in the middle.

The Reasoning Behind This Post

Okay, tell me if you’ve ever done any of these things…you hear a song on the radio that you love, and then realize it came out 30 years ago. Looking at old baby photos of your grandkids, you remember that they are now almost adults. You read that a celebrity has died, and then realize you used to watch them on a 1980’s sitcom.

Time does fly, doesn’t it? It reminds me that I’m getting old! Yet it also reminds me of how grateful I am to be alive. There are many personal life events that I’m so happy to have been a part of. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

There are also many national or world events that I’ve witnessed during my lifetime. I’ve seen things that my grandchildren can’t even imagine. My adult children haven’t witnessed as much as I have.

My point is that I’m old enough now to have lived through some amazing time periods. I’ve been there when “once in a lifetime” events happened. And THAT makes me feel good about being middle-aged.

The List

All of the events listed here are personal to me and my memories of them. You may remember different ones. I’m starting with the year 1980 and moving forward in time. Because that’s when I started paying attention to things going on in the world instead of just myself.

1 – John Lennon Was Murdered
(Dec. 8, 1980)

Image by jillionquotes.com
Image enhanced & quote removed by me

I’ve never been a big Beatles fan, but I remember this. I was talking on the phone to a friend and she stopped the conversation and said we had to observe two minutes of silence in his honor.

2 – Onset of AIDS
(June 5, 1981)

Photo by Therese Frare

I remember the spooky commercials for AIDS awareness, where the screen was completely black except for the word in big white letters. I also recall all of the terrible (and false) things people said about it.

3 – Charles and Diana’s Wedding
(July 29, 1981)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This was a huge event, with over 750 million viewers tuning in. I was one of them, and this was when I started following the Royal Family. It really was a fairy-tale type wedding!

4 – Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion
(January 28, 1986)

Image by pixabay.com

This was such a terrible tragedy. Seven astronauts, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe, were killed after the shuttle suddenly exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. It was sad because her students watched it happen from a live broadcast in their classroom. Poor kids…they must have been traumatized.

5 – The Fall of the Berlin Wall
(November 9, 1989)

Image by Reddit

Sitting in my living room with a group of friends, we watched as that huge wall came tumbling down. We cheered for the people of Germany; as each chunk of broken concrete was another step towards unity.

6 – The Rodney King Riots in L.A.
(April 29, 1992)

Image by: Mick Taylor via CC BY-SA 2.0

This photo is of the damage caused by the riots. I watched them on TV and was kind of frightened. I couldn’t believe all of the fires set and the looting that went on. The anger was intense and almost palatable. It was chaotic and I thought people had lost their minds.

7 – My First Cell Phone

(c) Can Stock Photo / littleny

Even though cell phones have been around since the 1960’s, the first ones were big, bulky, and too expensive for the general public. I got my first cell phone in 1994 and it looked similar to the one above. It was a flip phone and pretty basic. But I loved it and was excited to be able to carry my phone around with me!

8 – Princess Diana Dies in A Horrible Car Crash
(August 31, 1997)

Photos by: John Matthew Smith via (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oh, did I cry when the news cut into regular programming and announced Diana’s death. She was so young, and the accident could have been avoided if certain things were different. I wish Diana had worn her seatbelt, she may have survived. It was a very sad day.

Two years later, America’s Prince, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was killed in a plane crash on July 16, 1999. I heard about it at work and rushed home to watch the news.

9 – A New Century and A New Millennium Dawned
(January 1, 2000)

Created by Midlife Perspective

“A great many people experience the movement from one century to the next, but a minuscule number of people experience the movement from one millennium to the next.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

And I was one of those minuscule people! I feel blessed to have been alive at the beginning of another 1,000 years in time. Amazing.

10 – Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center
(September 11, 2001)

Fireman Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Building Remains by WikiImages from Pixabay

This had to be the worst day for every single American citizen. I’m sure we can all remember exactly what we were doing when this horrendous attack happened. While watching it unfold on TV, the news just kept getting worse. Remember “Let’s Roll”? Lord, I can still picture it like it was yesterday.

11 – Hurricane Katrina Destroys New Orleans
(August 29, 2005)

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

This is an image of the aftermath. Again, this was another event I viewed on TV – intensely watching to see if those levees would hold. The images after the city had flooded were awful. And FEMA took their sweet time getting there to help. I felt sorry for all the people wading through filthy water, and for those who passed away.

12 – Comet McNaught Seen from Earth
(January 14, 2007)

Photo by wisconsinpictures on Unsplash

Comets so bright they can be seen from earth with the naked eye (during the day) are rare. Over the past 332 years, there’s been only nine, and McNaught is one of them. I went outside in the early morning hours while it was still dark and saw it in the sky. It was the first time I’d ever seen a comet and it was a great experience.

13 – Barack Obama Becomes Our First African-American President 
(November 2008)

Public Domain

It was cool that after 43 stark-white former Presidents, America finally became diverse enough to vote in a black man as our Commander-in-Chief. I’m not into politics, but I do remember one thing about Obama that made me like him: he actually cried during a speech after one of the school shootings. A completely human thing to do, and he had no shame about showing emotion.

14 – King of Pop, Michael Jackson Died
(June 25, 2009)

Concert Photo by: Constru-centro via CC BY-SA 4.0

This may seem trivial to some people, but I wanted to have at least one pop culture event included in the list. I wasn’t a huge fan, and I didn’t pay any attention to the drama surrounding his looks or the kid-related scandals. All I know is that he could dance! And created some of the best music ever. I loved his songs…they were so upbeat you couldn’t help but sing-a-long when one came on the radio.

15 – The Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
(December 14, 2012)

Public Domain

My apologies, I couldn’t find a good photo of this event that wasn’t under copyright. The thing that bothered me the most about this particular shooting was that young children were killed. Twenty first-graders lost their lives for no reason. I was enraged. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain those parents felt. It infuriates me that all of these shooters off themselves before the police can get to them. Cowards.

16 – Same-Sex Marriage Became Legal in U.S.
(June 26, 2015)

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Events on this list that could be considered controversial, will be met by me with a “no comment”. These are historic events that deserve to be here, but I know how people can be, and I don’t want any hate or arguing in my comment section.

17 – Covid-19 Officially Becomes A Pandemic
(March 11, 2020)

Photo by Heike Trautmann on Unsplash

My mom is the one who told me about this new disease on the phone. She watches the news, I don’t. Like many people, I was pretty freaked out at first. I have never lived through a pandemic before, and neither has my mom; and she’s 85. I don’t think there’s been one since the Spanish flu. I don’t have much more to say about this one. It sucks.

18 – Roe vs Wade Was Overturned
(June 24, 2022)

Photo by Aiden Frazier on Unsplash

Like Number 16, this event is way too controversial. So I have no comment.

Closing Thoughts

There actually was a number 19, which was the death of Queen Elizabeth. But I’ve already written a blog post about her that you can read if you want to.

My personal favorite from this list is being alive at the turn of both a century and a millennium. Pretty awesome, in my opinion! Lots of people can live to be a hundred or more, but no one can live for a thousand years, lol.

Do you have memories or thoughts on any of these events? Or perhaps you can tell us about a different event that you remember. Please share in the comments, I’d love to know!

Take Care,


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