Then and now: 25 moments the world stopped for news

This story is part of a series to celebrate Yahoo’s 25th birthday. Thanks for joining us along this wild, wonderful ride.

In the beginning, Yahoo News was much different than it is today. Back in 1995, when Yahoo was first launched, founders David Filo and Jerry Yang used their “Guide to the World Wide Web” simply to keep track of their favorite links on the internet. Now, in 2020, Yahoo News’ digital journalism informs tens of millions of readers every day about everything from politics to entertainment to breaking stories and ongoing issues like the spread of the coronavirus. 

Here are some of the landmark stories that have defined the world and Yahoo News over the last 25 years. Yahoo editors have curated this list using data from the Yahoo search engine.

1. Sept. 11, 2001

The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane on Sept. 11, 2001. (Sara K. Schwittek/Reuters)

Nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001 when two planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City, a third hit the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a fourth crashed in Shanksville, Pa. 

The world watched as the U.S. mourned and united in the wake of the attack, which was carried out by al-Qaida terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden. U.S. forces promptly invaded Afghanistan, where al-Qaida militants had been sheltered by the ruling Taliban, beginning a conflict that continues to this day. 

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum now stands at what became known as Ground Zero in New York City in the wake of the attacks to commemorate its victims and tell the story of what happened on the day that changed America forever. 

2. O.J. Simpson trial 

The criminal trial of former NFL player O.J. Simpson captured the world’s attention, with viewers riveted by the television coverage of the 11-month proceedings in 1995. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder for the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Opening arguments for the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson began on Jan. 24, and Simpson was acquitted on Oct. 3.

Simpson, now 72, lost a civil suit in 1997 filed by the Goldman family and was later imprisoned for several years on an unrelated matter. He lives in Las Vegas. 

3. Iraq and Afghanistan wars

In the wake of 9/11, then-President George W. Bush ordered the start of a “war on terror” to remove threats to the U.S. His administration also launched an invasion of Iraq, insisting that the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. A lengthy and bloody occupation of Iraq followed in which thousands of Americans were killed. And the weapons of mass destruction Hussein was said to be hiding from international monitors turned out not to exist. 

The Afghanistan War, which is now the longest conflict in U.S. history, may soon be coming to an end. On Feb. 29, the U.S. and the Taliban signed a deal that outlined a timetable for the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. 

4. The new millennium — Y2K

The start of the new millennium brought with it a fear that the “Y2K bug,” a coding error on early computers, would lead to calamities across the globe. Though there was much panic that the bug would bring down systems for major pieces of infrastructure such as banks and airlines, the issues that actually occurred were much more minor than expected.

5. Columbine High School shooting

Columbine High School students are evacuated after two shooters, also students at the school, went on a rampage on April 20, 1999. (Kevin Higley/AP)

On April 20, 1999, two high schoolers in Columbine, Colo., murdered 12 of their fellow students and one teacher in what was at the time the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. The incident triggered a national conversation about gun control school safety measures that continues to this day. 

6. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky

The political scandal that involved President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky captivated the nation. Clinton admitted to an “inappropriate” relationship with Lewinsky, who was 22 years old when she was employed at the White House. Republicans alleged that Clinton had perjured himself by denying the affair while testifying in a sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones. 

The incident led to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 by the House of Representatives, but he was later acquitted in a Senate trial. Lewinsky went on to become a celebrated author and anti-bullying advocate. 

7. Presidential elections 

The historic presidential elections of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Donald Trump were among the most searched moments for Yahoo. Obama became the nation’s first black president in 2008, and Trump defeated more established rivals in the GOP and finally Hillary Clinton in a stunning political upset in 2016.  

8. The rise and fall of Napster

First released in 1999 to help users share files over the internet, Napster revolutionized the music industry by making millions of songs available for free to anyone with internet access. 

The Recording Industry Association of America sued Napster in the first case to address how copyright laws applied to online file sharing. In 2001, a judge decided that Napster was liable for copyright infringement, shuttering the company. But that didn’t stop the internet from becoming nearly everyone’s go-to destination for music through services like Spotify and YouTube. 

Napster c0-founder Sean Parker, meanwhile, would later team up with Mark Zuckerberg to help make Facebook a worldwide phenomenon. 

9. Sarin gas attack in Japan

Subway passengers affected by sarin gas planted in central Tokyo subways are carried into St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo on March 20, 1995. (Chikumo Chiaki/AP)

In March 1995, a Japanese doomsday cult carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. It was the worst terror incident in Japan’s history, killing 13 and injuring thousands. It also showed how rogue groups could kill mass amounts of people with sophisticated weapons.

In the years since, the country has not forgotten the impact of the event: In 2018, Aum Shinrikyo cult leader Shoko Asahara and 12 other cult members were executed. At a news conference following the first seven executions, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said, “These crimes … plunged people not only Japan but in other countries as well into deadly fear and shook society to its core.”

10. Singer Selena murdered

The global superstar was killed on March 31, 1995, at age 23. When the news of Selena Quintanilla Perez’s death initially broke, some thought that it was a cruel April Fools’ Day prank. Yolanda Saldívar, who was the founder and acting president of the Selena fan club, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison in October 1995. 

A Netflix series about the singer, “Selena: The Series,” is slated for release in 2020.

11. Oklahoma City bombing 

A truck bomb killed 168 people and injured more than 500 at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Two former U.S. Army soldiers, Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols, were convicted of carrying out the attack. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison, and McVeigh was executed in 2001. 

Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder revealed new uniforms that are dedicated to the bombing. The uniforms are black and feature symbols of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and bombing, including the times 9:01 and 9:03, the minutes before and after the bombing. “April 19, 1995, changed our city forever,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. 

12. Elizabeth Smart kidnapped

At age 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted in June 2002, held captive and sexually abused by Brian Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, for nine months. Police launched a massive search, and Smart’s parents did their best to ensure that the case stayed in the press, creating a website about her kidnapping. 

Smart was found and freed in March 2003. Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison, but Barzee was granted early release in 2018. 

Since her rescue, Smart has become an outspoken advocate for missing persons and sexual assault victims. She narrated and produced “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” a 2017 film that tells her side of the story of her kidnapping.

13. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski captured

Ted Kaczynski is flanked by federal agents as he is led to a car from the federal courthouse in Helena, Mont., on April 4, 1996. (John Youngbear/AP)

Domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski killed three people and injured 23 others in a nationwide bombing campaign over 17 years. The former math professor started mailing or placing a series of increasingly sophisticated bombs in 1978 and was only identified and caught in 1995 after his brother recognized his writing style in a manifesto published in major newspapers. 

14. The Great Recession

The collapse of the U.S. housing market in the late 2000s triggered the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The Great Recession, as it became known, affected economies around the globe and led to major drops in the U.S. stock market. Unemployment skyrocketed as governments struggled to contain the damage. 

The recession, which began in late 2007 and peaked in late 2008, finally ended in 2009. The political ramifications of the recession, however, are still felt today with the rise of left- and right-wing populist movements across the developed world. 

15. Global diseases

SARS, swine flu, Ebola, Zika and now the new coronavirus were among the most-searched terms on Yahoo, as readers tried to understand the severe diseases that spread quickly and globally. The new coronavirus has already become one of the most-searched terms on Yahoo as readers try to understand how to prepare for the virus’s spread. 

16. MLB steroid scandal

In recent years, some of the most successful players in Major League Baseball have come forward and admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during their careers. In 2006, Congress launched an investigation into previous use of these drugs by players. The report from the investigation included a list of more than 80 former and current baseball players who used drugs. 

As MLB officials grapple with how to deal with the issue, the integrity of the game has been questioned by players and fans alike. 

17. Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Irma

Residents wait on a rooftop to be rescued from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans on Sept. 1, 2005. (David J. Phillip/Reuters)

Major hurricanes like Katrina, Sandy and Irma wreaked havoc on several parts of the United States. Katrina left 80 percent of New Orleans underwater, killing 1,833 people and causing $136 billion in damage. Meanwhile, Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive storm of the 2012 Atlantic season, hit the Northeast the hardest, killing 233 people and costing $81 billion in damage. In 2017, Hurricane Irma killed 134 around the Gulf of Mexico and cost more than $100 billion in damage. 

These devastating storms also injected new urgency into the conversation around climate change. 

18. At long last — Red Sox and Cubs win World Series

The Chicago Cubs celebrate in Cleveland after Game 7 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians on Nov. 3, 2016. (Matt Slocum/AP)

There’s nothing sweeter than rain after a long drought, and the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs both managed to end dry spells in the past 25 years. On Oct. 27, 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918, vanquishing the “Curse of the Bambino” after 86 years. 

The Cubs won their first World Series after a record 108 years in 2016. The team, which had one win, came back after losing three games to the Cleveland Indians to win three games in a row to clinch the championship. 

19. WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

Infamous whistleblower Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006 and went on to publish some of the most-talked-about series of leaked documents in recent history. From U.S. diplomatic cables, CIA documents and emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, WikiLeaks’ publication of secret documents brought Assange into the international spotlight. 

The U.S. government charged Assange under the rarely used Espionage Act, but major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post criticized the decision as an attack on the First Amendment. Assange is currently in prison in London, where he is fighting extradition to the U.S. 

20. #MeToo movement

Harvey Weinstein departs a Manhattan courthouse on Feb. 5. (John Minchillo/AP)

The phrase “Me Too” can be traced back to Tarana Burke, a survivor of sexual harassment who first used the term on social media in 2006. Actress Alyssa Milano helped make the #MeToo hashtag viral on Twitter in 2017, and it was soon included in posts from high-profile actresses such as Ashley Judd and Jennifer Lawrence, who shared their experiences with sexual harassment and assault.

In the years since, a national conversation about sexual assault and harassment has taken hold in America, with women coming forward with allegations of sexual assault and harassment against powerful and influential figures that have led to firings. In perhaps the most notable example, the arrest and trial of Harvey Weinstein made the list of the most-searched moments for Yahoo. The disgraced producer was recently found guilty of one count of third-degree rape and one count of first-degree criminal sexual assault. He now faces a second trial in Los Angeles.  

21. Penn State child sex abuse scandal

In a scandal that gripped the sports world, Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. Sandusky and his lawyer said he was innocent, but the former coordinator was found guilty of sexual abuse in 2012. The scandal led to charges being brought against three Penn State school officials, including the president and vice president, for failing to report the child abuse. 

22. College admissions scandal

The last episode of “Full House” aired on May 23, 1995, and was one of the highlights in the year that Yahoo launched. 

For one “Full House” star, TV predicted reality. In one episode, Aunt Becky, played by Lori Loughlin, scolds her husband for lying about their children’s abilities in an attempt to get them into a prestigious preschool. “I know you want what’s best for them, but maybe the fast track isn’t worth it,” Loughlin’s Aunt Becky tells her husband in the show. 

Loughlin today faces charges over the college admissions cheating scandal currently being prosecuted by the Department of Justice. The actress is facing charges of conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud, money laundering and conspiring to commit federal programs bribery. The trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 5 in Boston. 

23. Royal weddings

Everyone likes a good love story, especially when it involves the royals. The weddings of Kate Middleton and Prince William and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry left readers eager for as many details as possible about the British royals. However, now that Meghan and Harry have announced their departure from the British monarchy, tensions have reportedly grown between the two couples. 

24. Boston Marathon bombing

Police officers with their guns drawn run to help Boston Marathon runner Bill Iffrig after the second explosion on April 15, 2013. (John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

At the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs detonated near the finish line, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others. Of those injured, 16 people lost limbs. 

The perpetrators, brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, led authorities on a manhunt that included the killing of an MIT police officer, the kidnapping of a man and a police shootout that left two officers with severe injuries. The death of one of those officers almost a year later was linked to the injuries.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in the shootout, and authorities captured his brother after a 20-block search of Watertown, Mass. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 but has made attempts to get the verdict overturned, claiming that the trial was unfair. 

25. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Major League Baseball Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred participates in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge outside the organization’s headquarters in New York on Aug. 20, 2014. (Vanessa A. Alvarez/AP)

This trend took over people’s social media feeds in 2014 as videos of people dumping buckets of ice water over themselves or over their friends went viral. The challenge was created by former college baseball player Pete Frates, who died of ALS in December of last year, to raise awareness and money for research about the neurodegenerative disease. The challenge ultimately spurred a massive increase in donations to ALS research and brought in $115 million.  


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