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A quarter century of newsmakers

Where are they now?

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Hardy Jackson now lives in a house in Georgia with his children and grandchildren.

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(CNN) -- Sometimes newsmakers, like Beirut abduction survivor Terry Waite and 9/11 miracle survivor Lauren Manning, give us hope in bleak moments.

And sometimes newsmakers' stories serve as cautionary tales, reminding us how easy it is to fall from grace.

In a quarter century of broadcasting, CNN has brought newsmakers from around the globe into your living rooms.

We look back at the news stories that helped define a generation.

The fury of Mother Nature and man

In late August, Hurricane Katrina became the 11th named storm of the turbulent 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and its most deadly and destructive. When the storm roared ashore it cut a wide swath of destruction across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Later that day, a massive storm surge breached levees in New Orleans, causing a catastrophic flood.

Two months after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the death toll stood at 1,289. Thousands of people were displaced to shelters around the country as entire communities and cities were flattened by the storm. Reconstruction costs are estimated to be at least $200 billion, making Katrina the costliest storm in history.

One survivor in Mississippi, Hardy Jackson, lost his wife, Tony, when floodwaters split their home and swept her away.

Hardy clung to a tree for hours before a neighbor spotted him and came to his rescue. The body of Hardy's wife body was recovered nearby.

"It just, it hurts. This hurts," Hardy said just days after the storm. "But I ain't going to give up. I'm going to try to do my best to raise my kids, like I been doing."

For Lauren Manning, who was severely burned in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, giving up was something she, too, decided she couldn't do.

Manning, a vice president and partner at bond trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald, had just arrived at Tower 1 of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit that morning. A fireball exploded from the elevator shafts and engulfed her. She suffered burns to more than 80 percent of her body and was given a 10 percent chance of survival.

"I would say that having been presented with the terrible tragedy and trauma of the murdering of so many thousands of people that I, as a survivor, among the very few of us that made it out, feel privileged to have life, and I have sought to make the most of every moment I have," she told CNN. "It's been a long, tough haul, and I've put as much work into it as necessary to get the job done."

Manning is nearing the end of physical therapy and savoring every moment of a life nearly lost.

Her long, slow recovery reflects the nation as it continues to grapple with the effects of the terrorist attacks targeting New York and Washington that killed at least 2,973 people.

On the world stage

We remember some newsmakers because of their bravery in the face of incredible odds.

In June 1989 student protest leader Wang Dan made the Chinese government's most wanted list after he helped organize a people's protest for democracy in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

"I saw the power of the people at that moment, really big power of the people," he told CNN in 2005. Wang said it was probably the first time in the history of the People's Republic of China that people took to the streets without permission from the government.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were killed when the Chinese government attacked the civilians and students who had assembled in the square. Wang was captured and imprisoned until 1993.

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Wang Dan, exiled from his native China, now lives in Boston, Massachusettes.

"I really lost something," Wang told CNN in 1999. "I lost my youth. Most important, I lost a lot of time. I'm still very clear; my dream is that I can do something, I can really do something to improve the situation of China."

Like Wang, British envoy Terry Waite knows what it's like to lose precious years.

He already had earned respect around the world for negotiating the release of hostages in Iran and Libya when the tables turned on Waite in 1987.

An envoy for the Church of England, Waite was working to free Western hostages in Beirut, Lebanon, when he was taken prisoner. He was accused of being a CIA spy (a charge he denies) and endured nearly five years of beatings, interrogations and solitary confinement.

"Sometimes I look back on those years in captivity -- four years in solitary confinement and almost a year with other people -- and I ask myself the question, 'How on earth did I manage to go through that?' " he said.

Waite credits mental toughness and hope for keeping him alive.

"Because of faith, I could say in the face of my captives, 'You have the power to break my body, and you've tried; the power to bend my mind, and you've tried. But my soul isn't yours to possess,' " he said.

Today, Waite is a grandfather of three and, at 66, says he isn't even considering retirement.

"I suppose having been a captive ... I do find now that I really appreciate life even more fully," he said.

Mental toughness

We remember some newsmakers for their determination and incredible resiliency.

In 2003 Bethany Hamilton, 13, was on her surfboard in clear Hawaiian waters off Kauai's north shore.

"My left arm was laying in the water and my other arm was just holding on to my board. And the shark just like came up and attacked me, and it kind of pulled me back and forth," she told CNN.

The shark, estimated by authorities to be between 12 and 15 feet long, bit off her left arm just below the shoulder

"It was about a two- to three-second period and when it ... was attacking me. All I saw was like a gray blur."

Hamilton was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. She had lost 70 percent of her blood.

Hamilton made a quick recovery, and only months after the attack she was back on a surfboard and performing competitively

The story of another teenager, Elizabeth Smart, shocked the nation in March 2003, when she reappeared after being abducted and held for nearly nine months.

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Elizabeth Smart stands with her parents after winning the 2004 National Courage Award.

Elizabeth had been taken at knifepoint from the bedroom she shared with her younger sister, Mary Katherine, who pretended to be asleep.

The abduction sparked a massive hunt for Elizabeth. Thousands of volunteers searched the Salt Lake City, Utah, streets and surrounding foothills. Police pursued more than 100 tips, but none of them panned out.

Her parents' anguish touched the nation.

In the spring of 2003 Elizabeth was found alive during a traffic stop in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City.

She was with Brian David Mitchell, a drifter and self-described prophet who calls himself "Emmanuel" and who had done some handyman work at the Smart home. Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee, have been charged but ruled mentally incompetent and so have not been tried.

After her rescue and joyful reunion with her family, Elizabeth has begun to put her life back together. The high-school senior is dating, driving and playing the harp in recitals, her father, Ed Smart, told CNN.

"I think that she's put it in such perspective," he said. "She says, 'You know, I've got my life ahead of me. And this guy did what he did for those nine months, and there is no way that I'm going to let him take any more from my life. He's not worth it.'"

Grabbing headlines the old fashioned way

Some newsmakers intrigue us with their brazen attitudes.

Heidi Fleiss grabbed headlines in the 1990s after she was arrested for running a high-priced prostitution ring serving Tinseltown's rich and famous. Now the former "Hollywood Madam" is capitalizing on her notoriety.

"I took the oldest profession on earth and I did it better than anyone on earth," she said in a recent interview with CNN. "Alexander the Great conquered the world at 32. I conquered it at 22."

Fleiss was convicted on federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering and served 21 months in prison. As part of a plea bargain, she also served a concurrent state sentence of 18 months for attempted pandering, a charge to which she pleaded guilty in 1997.

As soon as Fleiss got out of prison in 1999 she started capitalizing on her notoriety.

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Now: Fleiss is planning to open a brothel in Nevada.

She launched a line of clothing called Heidi Wear, penned several books about her experiences and made the rounds of television talk shows.

Now Fleiss plans to open a brothel in Nevada, where prostitution is legal in parts of the state. She wants to put her business savvy to work again in the area that is her expertise, she says.

She's also bucking convention in the brothel business. Fleiss plans to open a "stud farm" for female clients.

"I am going to have the sexiest men on earth. Women are going to love it," she told The Associated Press.

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