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Top news events: Your picks

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SPECIAL REPORT

(CNN) -- As CNN celebrates its anniversary by highlighting the most memorable news stories of the past 25 years, we've asked readers to participate by sending in their comments about the events that had an impact on their lives.

To contribute your top story picks from the past 25 years, complete this form.

The list is organized according to reader picks.

2000 presidential election

June Zeger: The most significant news story since 1980 was the election of 2000. The impact of that contorted outcome, and the lack of confidence in our electoral process is still affecting this nation and our place in the world today.

AIDS

Pedro Carvalho: Twenty years ago I was back from Soviet Union. The Soviets had a newspaper and a TV program devoted to international news, but I don't remember having ever heard about SPEED (Russian for AIDS). When I was back I had my first shock. Being gay, I thought we were all doomed (we were dying then like flies). The second shock was to see all the names I knew going. Later on I got it, it was my third shock. AIDS depressed me, angered me and taught me to live.

Kevin Harness: Probably the most significant impact of a "news item" on my life over the past 25 years has been HIV/AIDS. From the death of Ryan White, celebrities, and everyday common people, this disease has captured attention and lives. I lost the love of my life to AIDS when he was just 22, and I've lost other good friends, too. All one need do is watch Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia", or view the epic, "Angels In America", or listen to Magic Johnson to get a scope of the magnitude of the problem. As Magic put it, it's not just a white gay man's disease. It is a hard reality and not necessarily a pretty one, but I, for one, am glad there are those out there educating people, funding the research, and helping little by little to hopefully eradicate this plague from mankind. I give whenever I can. I thank all of you out there that contribute, too. Thanks.

Daniel E. Jacobs: AIDS, especially the contraction and death of Ryan White, and the death of Freddie Mercury. Ryan White was about my age, and just for a moment I could see myself, being on that phone, having to take classes over a speaker phone. It brought home that anyone could get this, and that anyone could die from it. And with Magic Johnson, it made it clear that we needed to be careful. Though that has faded, in my life, it has stayed with me forever.

Ben Brown Jr.: The invention of protease inhibitors for the treatment of HIV disease. Finally, a glimmer of hope amid a terrible and still ongoing pandemic.

Benigno Aquino assassination

Roberto Bonoan: The Benigno Aquino assassination has the same effect on Filipinos as the Kennedy assassination. Filipinos remember where they were when they heard about it. It led to the People Power revolution. It changed the course of Philippine history, and it also affected many other events in world history.

Catholic Church abuse scandal

Ray Grosswirth: 2002 was a pivotal year for the Roman Catholic Church, in that the sexual abuse crisis came to the surface after many decades of cover-ups. For close to 2,000 years, the Vatican has operated the church as a secret society, whereby members of the hierarchy were more concerned about themselves than the Catholic population in general. The media's exposure of the sexual abuse crisis has forced religious communities to examine their policies, which I believe is a positive development. As a married person who is called to ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, I believe the sexual abuse crisis will contribute to discussions of the failures attributed to the policy of mandatory celibacy. My thanks to CNN for giving this issue much coverage in 2002 and beyond.

Challenger explosion

Gary Bass: I personally witnessed the Challenger disaster on January 28th, 1986. I just happened to be vacationing in Florida at the time (I live in California), and was excited about going to my first shuttle launch. Having only seen it on TV before, I was not sure exactly what to expect. When it exploded, at first I thought that maybe it was the normal release of the solid rocket boosters, especially since I couldn't see anything but a big cloud. And then I saw the rocket boosters, still firing, flying around in circles. That's when I knew that something was very wrong. I can still remember the vertical streaks in the sky - pieces of flaming wreckage falling to Earth. I remember the voice of the Mission Control broadcaster coming over the loudspeakers. He was trying to remain calm, yet was obviously very emotional. I can remember his words - "We have lost contact with the orbiter, rescue units are moving position."

Donna Bartch: January 28th, 1986 when the Challenger exploded. I was sitting in the hospital with my dying father. Instead of being concerned with his demise he was so upset about the Challenger explosion. I guess the lesson I learned the most was the fragility of life and how quickly it can end. Live for today always

Jeff: The Challenger accident. I watched it from the lawn of my elementary school just south of Cape Canaveral, Florida. For two years afterwards, our entire economy was in threat of collapsing as the space program was restructured. We wouold have pieces of the shuttle wash up on shore. Once the shuttles started launching again it was always the though "please make it up.". So many aspects of life were affected by it.

Bill Streifer: The 1986 space shuttle explosion shaped my life. Personally, it demonstrated to me that despite the greatest of intentions, planning and scientific achievement - catastrophic failure may still result.

Cheryl Bowens: The explosion of the Challenger in 1986 changed me probably more than any other news event in the last 25 years. I was 24, still young enough to feel adventurous and nothing bad could ever happen. Watching the faces of the victims' families: awe, shock, fear, acceptance and grieve in 30 seconds of video suddenly made me aware of how unsafe even the most mundane activities could be. How many shuttles had flown without incident? There was a complacency in space exploration just like there had been in my life and suddenly it was all gone replaced by a knowledge that there is no guarantee that tomorrow would come. Other news stories have emotionally devastated me, but none so much as the first time I realized that that bad things DO happen to good people and nobody is immortal.

Nancy Campbell: The Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986 was the first time in my adult life that I remember crying while watching a news report. There was such a feeling of helplessness and deep sorrow.

Barbara Hernandez: The Challenger explosion exposed the fragility of life while in pursuit of dreams.

Lisa Grossman: The Challenger accident -- I was in high school and the teacher was called out of the room and came back in tears. Everyone was called to the auditorium to watch the news.

Victoria Barton: I think for me the first big news event I remember was the Challenger explosion. I was 6 years old in 1986. I remember watching the explosion on TV and just feeling a cold chill go over me and thinking of all those poor people. I also remember the school teacher who I believe was the first civilian in space. We have a school in Bakersfield, California, named after her now.

Chernobyl

Jennifer Chaffiotte: Chernobyl. The explosion gave me nightmares for years. Why nuclear power plants should not be operating. There is not a margin of safety large enough to deal with the consequences of a meltdown.

Columbine shootings

Brad Weiner: The Columbine shootings on 4/20/99 defined my entire generation. The United States will always have enemies and as horrible as 9/11 was to witness, Columbine showed us that our own violence is a problem we can not ignore any longer.

Lesley Thomas: The massacre at Columbine High School shaped how I viewed the world. This event happened about 1 month before I graduated high school, so I suppose it brought me down to the reality of the real world. I learned to be aware of the events around the entire world and well as the events surrounding my own life.

Patrick Johnson: Being only 23 years old I would have to say that the Columbine murders have been the biggest event that shaped me.

Mike Davis: The Columbine massacre hit way too close to home. Some of my friends had friends that were killed.

Persian Gulf War

Zena: The most vivid news event of the past 25 years was the beginning of the Gulf War in Jan 1991. I was in the campus cafeteria when someone came in and announced the bombing had begun. I had just taken a mouthful of hot soup and choked on it, burning my throat. I went upstairs to the big screen TV and joined hundreds of other students sitting and standing in a semi-circle around the television. The room was absolutely silent, except for CNN. Few went to class that day.

Dean MacKinnon: The event that shaped my life the most was the Gulf War. The start of that war was the start of my realization that I wasn't as safe as I thought. War became real.

Ryan Lampien: I think the story that most changed my life is your coverage of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. I was 18 at the time, and I had really never watched the news as intently as I had during the war. I feel that it changed my life, because I joined the Army shortly after the war was over.

Tom Jaynes: Seeing CNN's coverage of the Gulf War and then being there as a participant in the ground war in 1991 as a member of the 118th Public Affairs Detachment, Tennessee Army National Guard.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Jeff Offutt: Just 2 months before my first child was born, I was standing in a bar with some friends when everybody got quiet and stared at the TV. I turrned to see people standing on top of the wall, tearing it down, and started crying. All I could think of was that my daughter would never have to be scared that the Russians would bomb us. I will never forget that feeling.

Nicole Archer: The falling of the Berlin Wall...my family is from Berlin (I was born there) and it was a magnificant feeling.

Camile Designer: The Berlin Wall coming down was an event that signified the change that had been going on in the Eastern Bloc. There were so many happy faces standing near the crumbling wall. I always thought the wall would be there, I'm glad I was wrong.

Henry Cubillan: As a child of the Cold War, the image of people dancing atop the Berlin Wall as it crumbled is burned in my mind; it was one of those moments when I thought "there's still hope out there" ...

Shauna: I was only 10 when the Berlin Wall came down, but I remember watching news coverage of it with my parents. It was really the first time I understood that not all things revolved around my small world, that I was only a tiny part of a much bigger picture. To this day, when I hold the small piece of the wall my mother owns (brought to her from her brother, as she was born in Germany) in my hands, I am reminded to think of the big picture -- some things in this world are simply not important in the grand scheme of things. I wish that everyone had such a tactile reminder of what hatred and intolerance can do.

Ayn Cagney: The single most memorable event for me was the fall of the Berlin Wall. That event was a defining moment in the history of the world, changing the political landscape almost overnight.

Fall of the Soviet Union

Claudia LaCour: A memorable event for me was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prior to that time, communism had been what terrorism is to us today. I had no idea what the real Soviet Union looked like before that.

Mark Stevens: The collapse of the Soviet Union. Leaving us as the last superpower. A mixed blessing of total freedom and responsibility.

David Lefavour: The "fall" of the former Soviet Union and when I observed MiG-29s flying over Rockford, Illinois. Seeing MiG-29s at the Rockford airport made it feel like the Klingons (from "Star Trek") had landed.

Michael Crutcher : Possibly the greatest story of the past quarter century was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact military alliance. These closely related events radically altered not only the political landscape of Eurasia, but the nature of the international environment as a whole. In spite of the problems we are facing today in the world, the Soviet collapse was a positive development, freeing the peoples of Eastern Europe from Soviet domination, the people of Russia from seven decades of murderous government (estimated at 28 million killed by the regime), and freeing all of us from the specter of either incineration in a miscalculated, global nuclear war and the possibility of a World War III in Europe, possibly ending in global nuclear war.

Hong Kong's return to China

Peter Ng: Hong Kong being returned to China. Things have actually gotten worse ...

Internet

Maynard Ross: The biggest news event for me was the invention of the Internet. The Internet is a great medium for bringing the world together in both good and bad times.

Iran hostage crisis

Tony: The Iranian hostage crisis. This was the first time that I realized that people in other, non-Soviet Bloc countries hated the U.S. Until that time, I thought that all foreigners admired us. I was only 12, but this realization did shape my life.

Kurt Cobain's suicide

Gray George: When Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, it sent shock waves, not only through me, but through an entire generation of Xers. Cobain shaped the direction of both music and pop culture (insofar as it relates to fashion and attitude), and his untimely death was the ultimate manifestation of ennui for a disaffected group of youths.

John Lennon's assassination

Dave Fladager: The senseless murder of John Lennon was a tragic turning point in modern culture. The loss of our hope and innocence. A brutal introduction to the cruelty that man can inflict on each other. The senseless loss of the guiding spirit of The Beatles and for the generations of fans to follow. So sad.

Robert Clifton: I just want to say that the first time I realized the value of 24/7 news coverage was the day John Lennon was shot. Monday night, December 8, 1980. I first heard the news from Howard Cosell, of all people, while watching Monday Night Football. Soon after this I turned to CNN for more information. CNN stayed with the story continuously from the moment it hit. I remember watching it just about all day Tuesday. As a big Beatles fan it helped to have a source of info to go to. Thanks for being there and Happy 25th. Boy does the time fly.

Roland Fink: I will never forget hearing the news that John Lennon had been shot in front of his apartment in New York City. For me, this was the day the music died.

Dennis Dailey: I don't believe that anything had in impact on me like the murder of John Lennon. It was if our generation suddenly came to a screaming halt. The fact that this man stood like a beacon in search of world peace made this tragedy even harder to understand. For someone that had brought so much joy to so many people, his murder was totally senseless. It still leaves one stunned nearly 25 years later.

Donna Piemonte: John Lennon's death has been signified in my life as surely as my own brother's death has. ... When his incredible spirit was taken, days never seemed as clear and full of possibility as when his most public endeavor for peace and being real was thriving and among us.

Bob Dixon: The shooting of John Lennon would have to rank right up there as one of the largest news stories of the last 25 years. His slaying marked the end of innocence for many of us who loved his music and the magic of the Beatles.

Nelson Mandela's release from prison

Meghan Buckley Zeimen: Nelson Mandela's release from prison is my clearest memory of a news event in the past 25 years, and I am 25 now. I was home sick from school that day, and my grandmother was waving her cane at the TV, yelling for them to just let him out already. That image combined with what we learned in school about the unfair treatment of blacks in South Africa and the U.S. shaped my life by making me racially sensitive even though there really weren't any blacks in our upstate New York farming community.

The Oklahoma City bombing

Anna Clovis: I was in my world history class in 6th grade in Oklahoma when my teacher said a bomb had gone off in Oklahoma City. We didn't think it was serious at first, and then the reports of the deaths started coming in. The entire school gathered around a radio at lunch to hear what was going on. The image of the exposed building is still branded into my memory.

Mary: I remember I was late for work, and while driving in, I heard for the first time about the Oklahoma City bombing. Immediately after that story the DJ played Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." Of course I didn't know the full extent of the bombing yet, just that it was really bad. My vision of our/my world was changed. I wasn't as optimistic for my children and grandchildren's future. The World Trade Center bombing affirmed that I was right. I still become incredibly sad when I hear that song knowing that it could be "A Wonderful World", but it isn't.

Aime Hayes: The Oklahoma City bombing. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news and how I felt. It was the first time I could remember terrorism striking U.S. soil. I couldn't believe the devastation and that someone from our own country could do something so destructive and merciless.

People Power movement in the Philippines

Jonathan: February 1986 -- the People Power movement in the Philippines. I was just 17 back then and fortunate/lucky enough to have participated in that revolution. Now, in my 30s, I look back and for the first time recognize how much power the people really have, which most people here in the U.S. have taken for granted.

The personal computer

Paul Montesino: The invention of the microcomputer in the early eighties had the greatest impact in my life not only intellectually but also financially. The advent of the Internet was the icing on the cake.

Leon Phillips: Development and marketing of the personal computer was the most significant news that shaped our lives.

Princess Diana's wedding and death

V. Dennis: One of the events that had a significant impact on me was the death of Princess Diana. Although I am not an Anglophile, nor even really a celebrity watcher, I identified with her on some level without ever realizing it. She and I were about the same age, and entered marriages at the same time that ended unhappily at around the same time. She was the first icon of my generation to pass, and with it our youthful thoughts of our own immortality. Her death forced my generation to look in the mirror and assess our own lives and our own contributions to the world.

Mary Zorn: Having 24 hours access to news back in the early 1980's made me feel like I was finally connected to the rest of the globe better than reading about it. Through CNN I have become acutely aware of the intensity of thousands of stories, both good and bad. I feel a "citizen of the world" and less isolated than I did prior to "24 hour news". The story that most impacted my life was the death of Princess Diana because it was so surreal that her life and death had been played out in front of the cameras. It was amazing to see so many united in grief of a woman we all thought we knew.

Britta Van Dyke: I can still to this day remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news reported that Princess Diana had died. I had been following the news since the car crash was reported and when it was announced that she had died, a little part of me died, too. I was 28 years old, divorced, with three children. I thought of her boys having to live without their wonderful mother and it actually drew me closer to my own children. Diana's effect on this world was unfathomable and her death was devastating. I will never forget that day.

Hilary Ludwig: I know it may not seem the same to people of the past generations, but for me, there was no "JFK Day" in history, but I know exactly where I was the moment I heard that Princess Diana, her royalty, had been killed in an automobile accident.

Theresa MacDonald: Two events which are bookends to nearly half my life: the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and Princess Diana's death. I wasn't quite 13 when my mom woke me at an ungodly hour to watch hour after hour of gorgeous pomp and circumstance. I was in the last year of my 20's when, vacationing in Sun Valley, I heard the news that Diana had been terribly injured in Paris, followed shortly by the baffling news that she had died.

Donna: Princess Diana's death was a horrible event to hear of. She had the heart and soul of Mother Theresa, and it was sad to see her die in such [a way].

Ronald Reagan getting shot

Aristea Vlavianos: I remember the day President Reagan was shot. I was in 10th grade, and we were waiting for our history class to start after lunch, and the teacher was uncharacteristically late. Finally he rushes in, apologizes for being late, and announces the President has been shot. I remember the shock I felt, and the shock on the faces of my classmates. The rest of the day was a blur til I got home and became glued to the TV to find out what was happening and how President Reagan was. Thank goodness he survived and was able with Margaret Thatcher to bring an end to the Cold War.

Ronald Reagan's election

Frank Reister: I believe that the election of Ronald Reagan as President was the event that was most significant, as it set America back on a course of strength and leadership after a period of weakness following the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. He brought strength and leadership back to the White House, and encouraged the nation.

Roger Lunsford: The election of the 40th president of the United States, Mr. Ronald Reagan, has shaped my life during the '80s until today. His influence continues to manifest itself throughout the world. His eternal optimism, his hope for a stronger America, is what makes me a more patriotic American because of the example set by the 40th president of the United States of America -- Ronald Reagan.

John Press: The election of Ronald Reagan left me with a deep sense of disappointment, and told me that the social gains of the previous 20 years were no longer valued by Americans. Since then, not much has gone right in this country.

Red Sox winning the World Series

Gordon Kaufman: Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. Now, finally, we can stop hearing about the "curse."

Rwanda

Kevin Hadduck: The massacre in Rwanda, ten years ago, deepened my conviction that those who choose not to act, not to intervene for fear of dire consequences, do not necessarily hold the moral high ground. North American and European complacency and fear contributed to the loss of nearly a million lives.

Same-sex marriage bans

Gretchen van Ness: Perhaps the most important news story in my life (I'm 46 years old) was the announcement of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision which found the prohibition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional. I did not know until that moment, when the court affirmed the full humanity and citizenship of gay and lesbian persons, how profoundly the hostility towards our relationships had burdened my heart and soul. This was truly a ground-breaking experience, and it was a news story I never expected to see in my lifetime.

San Francisco earthquake

Sheryl Cyphert: I first started watching CNN during the San Francisco earthquake and became a loyal watcher.

September 11, 2001

Judy Stage: I am 68 and the most memorable day in my life was the end of World War 2. Even as a child growing up in Michigan, far from any action,I felt vunerable. Sept. 11th of 2001 is the most memorble day in the last 25 years. I will never forget my son calling me from work and telling me to turn on CNN. The fears that I felt as a child during World War 2 came flooding back and I could not believe the horror of it all. I will never forget.

A. Knoll: My family and I moved to London three weeks previously. I was on my way to pick up a daughter from school. There were people crowded around an electronics store watching a T.V. in horror as one of the towers collapsed. I thought it must be a movie clip. The other ex-pats and I at the school huddled in circles in shock and disbelief. The English parents, not normally demonstrative, offered compassion and kindness. The next two days I felt isolated from the country I cherished as restrictions on flying and tied up phone lines cut me off from all I held dear. At a vigil held at St. Paul's Cathedral an English stranger, seeing my weeping, spontaneously gave me a hug. The world all at once seemed terribly frightening and yet also extremely charitable.

Gustavo Barrera Oro: 9/11 events were a real hinge of fate. Even when I live half a world away, the fact that the U.S. is no longer a safe haven changed my life enormously. Twice a resident, always holding a visa just in case, America used to be a possibility, somewhere to go. Only after the recent seaquake in Indonesia has the New York Twin Towers disaster ended up being the most frightful event in my whole life.

Lynn Vick: I think the biggest story that has most impacted our lives in the past 25 years would be September 11, 2001. I remember the very minute I heard about it. I was at my daughter's middle school, volunteering for a project. One of the teachers came in the office and informed us as to what was happening. We all crowded into an empty classroom to watch the second tower collapse. My heart collapsed as well. I knew then our world would never, ever be the same. It was hard to explain to our children.....I watched the teachers and staff at the school handle the situation with much dignity and sensitivity. I have witnessed Americans rise to greatness during this time. God Bless America!!

John Drummond: For our generation, who never saw a military conflict on our soil, the morning of September 11, 2001, shook us out of a peaceful slumber. We wept in sorrow, we grew angry for justice, and we prayed for strength. The fight for freedom is now ours. This fight between good and evil will always be with us. Good and decent people with common sense must prevail over those who attempt to rule through terrorism and intimidation.

Maggie Uprichard: The 9/11/01 attack on the World Trade Center and the "new war" on terrorism that has no rules and is not under the governance of the convention of a civilized society. We now live with an uncertainty and trepidation regarding what used to be everyday innocuous activities, like aircraft flying overhead, and there is a certain sadness about the loss of innocence surrounding mundane activities.

Joseph Sokoloski: September 11th has to be the biggest event in my life. I could not forget what I was watching on CNN. It is one of those events like Pearl Harbor or the assassination of JFK that I will remember what I was doing. It is still having an effect on me because I am now in Kuwait/Iraq with my National Guard unit from Connecticut.

Amy Caudle: Having just celebrated my 25th birthday, I look back over my life and think of the news events that affected me. Simply no other event can compare to that of September 11, 2001. Surely, triumphs and tragedies have occurred throughout these years but no other has made just a lasting impression -- leaving America, and ultimately me, changed forever.

Jiri Tichy: September 11 regrettably is the biggest event ... tourism ... economy crashed ... an uncalled-for war ... alleged weapons of mass destruction, etc. etc.

Kenneth Imm: The 9/11 disaster. I was working the 3rd shift at the time, and when I got home I always tuned in to CNN to keep up on what was happening in the world. I got into bed to go to sleep and then it happened right there before my eyes. I still think of all the people that were killed and the grief their families had to go through, and are still going through. I'm sure that single event has changed everyone in some way.

Richard Sampson: I remember waking up to a phone call from my mother early in the morning, and I never receive calls from my parents early in the morning. I freaked out and answered the call. My mother told me to turn on to CNN. I asked her a couple of times, what is happening, what is happening. She told me turn on the television. The moment I turned to CNN, I saw that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. I wasn't freaked at that moment because I thought it was a small plane that lost control and crashed. However, I saw the second plane come straight at the second tower and I freaked out. I couldn't believe the United States was being attacked. At that moment, it was a new world and a new way of thinking. War wasn't about the big weapons and number of people within the military, it was about commitment to a cause and dying for that cause and dying for that cause.

O.J. Simpson aquittal

Mike Poirier: Up until 9/11, my generation's watershed question was, "Where were you when OJ Simpson was found not guilty". Sad but true.

Tsunami

JB Bright: I'm 60 now and when I look back to find things that had a profound impact on my life I need not reach much further than December 26, 2004 and the Indian Ocean Tsunami. I lived in Hawaii for 30 years and though I was evacuated twice in that time, no wave ever came. I took the warning system for granted, my safety and my life. Watching film and hearing the stories from the survivors has left me unsettled to my core. I'm now trying to reassess things in hope I will be more considerate of my life, my family and my willingness to see things differently. We all should do that as we seem to have become too complacent.

Bruce Cahill: The news that has affected me the most is the recent tsunami destruction, which in sheer number of deaths overrides 9/11. It shows man is very vulnerable. I have been completely touched by the whole world's response and quite embarrassed by the U.S. response. It could happen anywhere. I did not know that people of the world could be so generous!

Barbara Thompson: The tsunami disaster makes you realize just how precious life is and the power of water.

Waco, Texas standoff

L. Mastracci: There is one story that comes to mind for me, the Waco massacres. I will never forget the vision of the house burning down, with all the children inside. Regardless of the situation, it was horrific from any standpoint.

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