A romance that united sports and music fans, a celestial miracle that drew millions of eyes to the sky, and a spiritual return for some Native American tribes were just some of the moments that inspired and brought us joy in 2023.
In a year that saw many wars, deadly mass shootings, earthquakes, fires, stories of sexual harassment and other tragedies, these events were among those that transcended the turmoil of 2023 and made people feel hopeful.
As Taylor Swift would say, “Keep the memories.” Here are some of them:
A FRIENDSHIP BRACELET WITH A PHONE
That's how Travis Kelce planned to woo superstar Taylor Swift when he went to her Eras Tour concert in the Missouri capital. It didn't work — at first.
But the romantic gesture and public admission of defeat on his “New Heights” podcast caught the Grammy winner's attention. After the power couple went public with their relationship — he went to a Chiefs game and sat in a box with Kelce's mom, to the delight of fans — they started taking the world by storm.
Sports announcers calculated Swift's impact on Kelce's game stats and viewership, national magazines offered comprehensive dating timelines, and Swift's fans scoured Kelce's old social media posts to make sure he was right for their queen. .
On tour in Buenos Aires, the then 33-year-old singer changed a line from “Karma is the guy on the screen” to “Karma is the guy on the Chiefs.” And fans went wild when he jumped into Kelce's arms for an iconic kiss after the concert.
“I think we're all excited about it. Until they start making good romcoms again, this is what we have,” said Michal Owens, a 37-year-old longtime fan from the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville.
While pairs of pint-sized freaks donned sparkly dresses and Chiefs jerseys this Halloween, Owens turned her look into an homage. The mother-of-three dressed a 12-foot-tall (3.66m) skeleton in a Chiefs jersey, another in a sparkly dress, then stacked three smaller skeletons on top of each other to create what she called a ‘tower of Swifties' .
“We have so many things in the world to be sorry for,” he said. “Why not find something to root for and give us some joy?”
AN AWE-INSPIRING ECLIPSE
From the Oregon coast to the beaches of Corpus Christi, Texas, millions of people in October donned special glasses and looked up to see the dazzling “ring of fire” solar eclipse.
“It's kind of spiritual, but in a way that's almost tangible,” said University of Texas at San Antonio astrophysics professor Angela Speck, recalling the type of eclipse ancient Mayan astronomers called a “broken sun.”
Crowds in the eclipse path erupted in cheers when the moon blocked out all but a bright circle of the sun's outer edge. Participants in an international hot air balloon celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico, spilled from the launch pad. NASA broadcasters said they felt a chill as the moon cast a shadow on earth – and one broadcaster was so overcome with emotion that he began to cry.
The phenomenon was a prelude to the total solar eclipse that will sweep across Mexico, the eastern half of the US and Canada in April 2024. But the next ‘ring of fire' eclipse won't be visible in the US until 2039 and then only in parts of Alaska.
IN DEATH, AN INDEPENDENT ACT
Surprise letters appear in mailboxes, informing recipients that their medical debt has been cleared.
They have Casey McIntyre to thank. The 38-year-old New York book publisher nearly died of cancer in May. But in what her husband, Andrew Rose Gregory, called a “bonus summer”, the young mother made plans to help people after she left. Her goal: To erase medical debt.
In a message posted after her death in November, he asked for donations, writing: “I loved each of you with all my heart and I promise you that I knew how deeply they loved me.”
By December, more than $900,000 had been raised, enough to write off nearly $90 million in debt. That's because the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt says that every dollar given buys about $100 in debt.
“Her positive spirit resonates with so many people,” said Allison Sesso, the nonprofit's president and CEO.
The effort was inspired by the people McIntyre met during treatment. They were not only worried about their health, but how to pay for their care. He had good insurance — and “couldn't even think about having to deal with this on top of the cancer,” Sesso said.
The fundraiser, which quickly smashed its initial goal of $20,000, gave her family a piece of “something positive” to focus on amid their grief. It was especially difficult for the family because when McIntyre died, her daughter was still a toddler. 2.
“It sounds crazy, but she didn't seem angry at all,” Sesso said. “He was saying, ‘This happened. I've accepted that this happened and I'm going to make this positive.”
A SPIRITUAL RETURN
When the Grand Canyon became a national park more than a century ago, many Native Americans who called it home were displaced.
In 2023, significant steps were taken to address the actions of the federal government. In May, a ceremony marked the renaming of a popular campsite in the inner canyon from Indian Garden to Havasupai Gardens, or “Ha'a Gyoh,” in the Havasupai language.
It marked a pivotal moment in the tribe's relationship with the US government nearly a century after the last member of the tribe was forcibly removed from the park. The Havasupai tribe was landless for a time until the federal government set aside a plot of land in the depths of the Grand Canyon for members.
Then in August, President Joe Biden signed a national monument designation — over opposition from Republican lawmakers and the uranium mining industry — to help preserve about 1,562 square miles (4,046 square kilometers) north and south of Grand Canyon National Park .
It was another big step for the Havasupai and the 10 other tribes that call the Grand Canyon home.
The new national monument is called Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni. “Baaj Nwaavjo” meaning “where tribes roam”, for the Havasupai people, while “I'tah Kukveni” translates as “our footprints”, for the Hopi Tribe.
The move limits new mining claims and brings tribal voices to the table for environmental stewardship, said Jack Pongyesva of the Grand Canyon Trust, an advocacy group that represents tribal and environmental issues in the region.
He said it could also open the door to more cultural tourism, where visitors could learn not only about the landscape but also about the tribes — from the tribes themselves.
Pongyesva, a member of the Hopi Tribe, said the dedication is “the beginning of this healing and looking back and seeing what was wrong and moving forward together.”
A DURABLE RETURN
Fir trees are staples of Christmas tree lots. But in Isle Royale National Park near Michigan's Canadian border, balsam firs were being gobbled up.
Gray wolves on the remote island complex in Lake Superior had already been wiped out by inbreeding, turning the moose population into a “runaway freight train” and stripping trees that were the wolves' main food during long, snowy winters, said Michigan Tech biologist Rolf Peterson. .
An ambitious plan has been drawn up to airlift wolves from the mainland to the park — and it's starting to make a big difference. A report this year shows that the resurgent wolf population is thriving and the elk population is shrinking, giving the trees a chance to recover.
There were critics of the plan, but Peterson said there were no other viable options. Due to climate change, particularly global warming, there are fewer ice bridges, reducing the ability of wolves to travel from the mainland and diversify the gene pool.
“It was a huge undertaking,” Peterson said, and it turned out “spectacularly well.”