When Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast this fall, claiming the lives of at least 110 people and causing upwards of $71.3 billion in damage to New York and New Jersey alone, thousands were left without power for days, including half of Manhattan, which went dark Nov. 1.
After the Costa Concordia hit a reef off the Italian coast on Jan. 13, at least 30 people were killed and another 64 injured. Still, five months later vacationers sunbathed in front of the capsized cruise ship, which will finally be cleared from the Giglio Porto harbor next year.
A Fiery Protest
On March 26 Tibetan exile Jamphel Yeshi set himself on fire before hundreds in New Delhi to protest the impending visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao. His death made him a martyr in the eyes of Tibetans, who plastered the city with posters of his image and rallied in his honor.
At the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30, Clint Eastwood improvised a routine in which he talked to an empty chair as though President Obama were seated in it.
Soaring to Victory
Gabby Douglas's performance July 31 helped the American women's gymnastics team (the Fierce Five) capture the gold medal at the London Olympics. A few days later the 16-year-old became the first woman of color to take first-place honors in the individual all-around event.
An Epic Run
On Aug. 4 South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete at the Olympics. Ultimately, he placed eighth in the second semifinal of the 400-meter dash. "I've been very blessed," he said. "There's been a lot of support and that makes a huge difference. It helped me perform knowing I had so many people behind me."
Team USA celebrated after Carli Lloyd (center) scored a goal in the gold medal soccer game against Japan on Aug. 9. The women's team would have more group hugs in their future: They went on to win 2-1 and captured the U.S.'s fourth Olympic title in the sport.
Making a Splash
Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin-from Centennial, Colo.-won four gold medals at the Olympic games. When she swam the 200-meter backstroke on Aug. 3, she had two reasons to smile: She also set a new world record in the event.
29-year-old Kim Jong Un assumed control of North Korea after his father, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il, died last December. On April 24 Jong Un's image was displayed on a giant screen in Pyongyang as part of a celebration honoring the anniversary of the founding of the country's army.
End of an Era
After Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was accused of concealing allegations of child abuse against defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the university took down the statue of him that stood outside its football stadium.
The Big Day
On Dec. 6, the first day gay couples were able to legally wed in the state of Washington, Jane Abbott Lighty (left), 77, and Pete-e Petersen, 85, were the first to officially register their marriage at the King County Recorder's Office. They celebrated with a hug.
A few weeks after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles, the cyclist, 41, tweaked critics by tweeting this photo of himself surrounded by the symbols of his victories-the yellow Tour jerseys. Wrote Armstrong: "Back in Austin and just layin' around ..."
Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and wearing a hooded sweatshirt when a neighborhood-watch man killed him on Feb. 26 after reporting he looked "up to no good." To honor the 17-year-old, New Yorkers (including members of the city council) donned hoodies during their call for justice.
One Final Flight
On Sept. 21 the space shuttle Endeavor soared one last time (on the back of a jumbo jet) over Southern California before finally landing at Los Angeles International Airport. A few weeks later it was moved to the California Science Center, where it is on display as a permanent exhibit.
Home at Last
When Sgt. Larry Greene, a paratrooper with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, returned from Afghanistan to Anchorage, his 5-year-old son Larry Greene III greeted him with a big squeeze and a huge grin.
Nik Wallenda made history June 15 by becoming the first person to cross directly over Niagara Falls on a high-wire. "It's a beautiful view," he said as he walked from the U.S. to Canada, where he was required to show his passport. "A dream in the making."
View from Above
There are skydivers, and then there's Felix Baumgartner. On Oct. 14 the Austrian pilot set a sky-diving world record and became the first person to break the sound barrier without a vehicle after he jumped from a helium balloon that hovered at 24 miles above the Earth.