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Memorable Moments in 2023 That We Almost Forgot

So much happened in the past year, it's enough to make your head spin


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Neil Jamieson

We know you didn’t escape the summer of “Barbenheimer,” a portmanteau coined for the shared launch date of the billion-dollar-plus-grossing Barbie and epic thriller Oppenheimer. The tsunami of Barbie merchandise blanketed stores with pink OPI nail polish, Swoon pink lemonade, and pink frozen yogurt from Pinkberry. If you were in Brazil, you may have enjoyed, or not, a special BK Barbie Combo, which was a Burger King cheeseburger topped with a bright pink sauce.

​But Barbenheimer was not the only big to-do of 2023 (or, as I like to call it, MMXXIII). The flood of events was enough to make your head spin. It’s no surprise you may have forgotten about some of the most memorable stories. We have gathered a few to make you go, “Wow, was that this year?” ​

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Passings​

Sadly, we lost a lot of talent this year, including singers Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte and Sinead O’Connor. We also mourned the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy and actor Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman). And while Queen Elizabeth II passed on in September of 2022, we got to watch all the pomp and circumstance of the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III in May. ​

Tragedy also struck when the Titan, a submersible carrying five people to the ocean floor to view the remains of the Titanic, lost radio contact with teams on the surface. The public spent five days panicking about the sub’s depleting oxygen levels before learning that the submersible imploded, experts assumed on its first day underwater.

​In other sad news, a dozen horses died at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, during a few weeks in May 2023. The racetrack suspended races pending an investigation. Investigators found no connection between the facility and the deaths but a report cited concerns about increased risk for some horses due to the frequency and cadence of their exercise schedules. ​

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Natural Disasters​

This year, we were overwhelmed by a slew of natural disasters. For weeks, Canadian wildfires blanketed parts of the United States with orange smog in some areas. The northeast saw powerful flash flooding. California endured flooding from multiple “atmospheric river” rainstorms. Maui was devastated by wildfires propelled by winds up to 80 miles per hour. Three hundred seventy-three people died as a result of the disasters. The United States faced at least 24 major weather events that cost over $1 billion each.

​Technology​

How can we forget the launch of ChatGPT-4? GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer and was initially released in 2022, but the fourth version, with an intentionally chatty user interface, grabbed America’s attention when it was released in March. Able to complete an impressive array of creative tasks in seconds with convincing human-like realism, the software has us wondering whether the machines really are poised to take over, as we have been warned in many suspense and action films over the decades.​

Sports and Entertainment

​After a two-year hiatus, Simone Biles returned to gymnastics to clinch her sixth all-around championship title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, becoming the most decorated gymnast in history. US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson ran 100 meters in an astonishing 10.65 seconds at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. And 20-year-old Spanish tennis player Carlos Alcaraz beat 36-year-old No.1 seed Serbian Novak Djokovic to take the Wimbledon title. Djokovic holds 23 Grand Slams and remains No. 1 in the world, but the third-longest Wimbledon final match ever and one of the most exciting in years has renewed interest in men’s tennis.​

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In music, fans dancing to “Shake It Off” at Taylor Swift’s Seattle show caused measurable seismic activity. Swift’s record-shattering Eras tour has catapulted Swift’s career to new heights. The tour has earned over $1 billion so far, and the movie of the tour has raked in more than $200 million to date, making it the highest-grossing pure concert film in history. Swift leads female artists in number of weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts and has six Grammy nominations and 20 Billboard Award nominations this year, atop the more than 500 nominations to date. The self-made billionaire is the only artist ever to have five albums reach one million units sold in their first week of release. Swift, who got her first deal with a record label at age 13, turned 34 last week. We expect to hear much more from and about her in the future.

​While Swift is on a high, it wasn’t such a great year for anti-fat shaming, award-winning singer Lizzo, who won a Grammy for Record of the Year for "About Damn Time" before being called out for … you guessed it, fat shaming. ​

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In streaming services, we held our breaths during the finale of HBO’s wildly depressing, heartbreaking, and utterly engrossing TV series Succession. HBO Max also streamed the last of The Last of Us, based on Sony’s super-popular, post-apocalyptic PlayStation games of the same name. Billions, the seven-season Showtime series about hedge fund managers and U.S. attorneys in New York, finished strong with an improbable but highly entertaining finale.

News of the Weird

We know you haven’t forgotten about the Chinese spy balloon. The bright white, uncrewed vehicle the size of three school buses floated over the United States — rather flamboyantly, we think, for an alleged stealth device — for days until a U.S. Air Force fighter jet shot it down off the coast of South Carolina.

The Biden administration ended the COVID-19 emergency declaration in April, and the World Health Organization followed suit in May, ending its global health emergency.

Time to make new memories in 2024.

Share your experience: What unforgettable moment did we forget? Let us know in the comments.

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