1974: WATERGATE WIFE
As her husband’s political reputation was torn to shreds over the Watergate scandal, Patricia Nixon holds the fort as First Lady. “Pat Nixon is the tough one in that marriage,” a reporter tells PEOPLE.
1975: BETTY'S BREAST CANCER
Despite undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy for breast cancer, Betty Ford hits her stride as First Lady. “I’m having a ball,” she says while traveling with the President in Europe.
1978: A PRETTY BABY
1980: JOHN LENNON'S DEATH
John Lennon, 40, is shot and killed by deranged fan Mark David Chapman. The former Beatle is survived by his wife Yoko, son Sean and a celebrated musical legacy.
1981: DIANA REIGNS
With the impending nuptials of Prince Charles Windsor and Lady Diana Spencer, PEOPLE profiles the Brits (a dressmaker, a coachman and a chorus boy) who were preparing for the royal affair.
1982: DI'S LITTLE PRINCE
Prince William – who will one day be King of England – makes his royal debut as the first born of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. “He’s a good speech-maker,” Queen Elizabeth jokes of her grandson’s squealing during his christening.
1983: STARVED TO DEATH
Just shy of her 33rd birthday, angelic-voiced Karen Carpenter dies of heart failure reportedly brought on by her battle with anorexia nervosa.
1984: VANESSA STRIPPED
Vanessa Williams – the first black woman to win the Miss America title – is forced to give up her crown when pre-pageant nude photos of her are sold to Penthouse. “I felt betrayed and violated,” she says, “like I had been raped.”
1985: A ROCKY SECRET
Ten weeks before his death at age 59, leading man Rock Hudson admits to having AIDS. Although he shatters a debonair public image cultivated over three decades in Hollywood, he gives the disease a very famous face.
1987: BABY JESSICA'S RESCUE
Toddler Jessica McClure, known around the world as Baby Jessica, captures the nation’s heart when she is trapped at the bottom of a well in Midland, Texas, for 58 hours.
1988: TEST-TUBE QUINTUPLETS
Michele and Raymond L’Esperance of Detroit, Mich., welcome America’s first test-tube quintuplets (Alexandria, Veronica, Raymond, Danielle, and Erica) through in vitro fertilization. “Basically I just looked at them in amazement,” Raymond told PEOPLE.
1988: AIDS ANGEL
A hemophiliac, Ryan White contracts AIDS at age 12 from tainted blood-clotting products and goes on to become the innocent face (and fierce advocate) of a “sinful” plague. “If I were worried about dying, I’d die,” he said before succumbing to the illness at 18 in 1990.
1989: HEROES AMONG THE RUBBLE
The Quake of ’89, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, leaves San Francisco shaken and an estimated 270 dead and 1,400 injured – but out of the rubble emerges extraordinary heroism.
1990: THE MENENDEZ BROTHERS
Lyle Menendez, 22, and his brother Erik, 19, are arrested for the shooting deaths of their parents, Jose, 45, and Kitty, 44, in their $5 million Beverly Hills mansion on Aug. 20, 1989. The brothers, who claimed they acted out of self-defense after years of abuse, are sentenced to life in prison.
1991: SUPREME CHALLENGE
Anita Hill testifies about sexual comments allegedly made by her former boss, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Although Hill loses her battle and Thomas heads to the nation’s high court, her testimony raises the nation’s consciousness about sexual harassment.
1992: LONG ISLAND LOLITA
Seventeen-year-old Amy Fisher of Merrick, N.Y., who had been having an affair with auto-body-shop owner Joey Buttafuoco, goes to his home and shoots his wife, Mary Jo, in the head. Dubbed the “Long Island Lolita,” Fisher is convicted and spends nearly seven years in prison.
1992: PRINCE-LESS DIANA
With rumors of a royal split brewing, Prince Charles and Princess Diana confirm their separation – amid reports that Charles is involved in an ongoing affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, whom he went on to marry in 2005.
1993: HOLLYWOOD MADAM
Party girl Heidi Fleiss, 27, is busted in an undercover sting operation on felony pandering and narcotics charges, but never reveals the famous names in her not-so-little black book.
1994: FAREWELL, JACKIE
Millions mourn Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, who died of cancer at age 64 on May 19 and is buried beside her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, at Arlington National Cemetery.
1994: THE O.J. TRIAL
Famed football star O.J. Simpson stands accused of brutally murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25, on June 12. The ensuing trial takes place through 134 days of televised testimony, resulting in Simpson being found not guilty.
1995: OKLAHOMA BOMBING
On April 19, a truck bomb rips through the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people – including 15 of the 21 children of America’s Kids daycare center on the building’s second floor.
1996: JFK JR. WEDS
1997: FAREWELL, DIANA
The world mourns the tragic death of Princess Diana, 36, who on Aug. 31, died in a car crash in Paris with her companion, Dodi Fayed, 42. Says British Prime Minister Tony Blair, “She was truly the people’s princess.”
1998: INTERN-AL AFFAIRS
President Bill Clinton’s extramarital relationship with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky erupts in the media – leading to a probing investigation that results in Clinton’s impeachment and subsequent acquittal.
2001: SEPTEMBER 11TH
On the morning of Sept. 11, four U.S. planes hijacked by terrorists crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people. The attacks go down as the worst act of terrorism in the U.S. – and changes the course of national security forever.
2002: JULIA'S SURPRISE WEDDING
2003: THE PETERSONS
Scott Peterson is convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son Conner, after their bodies wash up in the San Francisco Bay in April.
2004: MARTHA'S PRISON SENTENCE
Domestic goddess Martha Stewart is indicted on charges of insider trading stemming from her December 2001 sale of ImClone shares. She’s sentenced to five months in prison for her crime.
2005: BRAD & JEN SPLIT
2005: HURRICANE KATRINA
On Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina plows into New Orleans, ripping off part of the Superdome – where evacuees sought shelter – and devastates the city’s Lower Ninth Ward.
2006: AMISH SCHOOL MASSACRE
On Oct. 2, troubled local truck driver Charlie Roberts murders five young Amish girls in their one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa. But it’s the forgiveness that the victims’ families show that give the world a glimpse into the values of their culture.
2007: BRITNEY'S MELTDOWN
2008: MEET PRESIDENT OBAMA
After 135 million ballots are tallied, Sen. Barack Obama beats Sen. John McCain to become the first black man elected President of the United States. “For even as we celebrate tonight,” he says, “we know that the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime.”
2009: MICHAEL'S DEATH
The world is stunned by the sudden death of Michael Jackson, who at 50 suffers an apparent cardiac arrest in his Los Angeles home on June 25 – weeks before launching a comeback tour. “To you, Michael is an icon,” his sister Janet says. “To us, Michael is family. He will forever live in all of hearts.”