October 23, 2002 — Kanye West injured in a car accident

Before his career as an independent recording artist got off the ground, Kanye West nearly died in a car accident in Los Angeles. He survived, and although his injuries were not very severe, he had to have his jaw wired shut, leaving him unable to speak until it healed…

…no, some jokes are just too easy.

July 28, 2002 — Trapped miners are rescued from Quecreek Mine

On July 24, 2002, a team of 18 miners in the Quecreek Mine (in Somerset County, Pennsylvania) accidentally broke through into an older, poorly documented mine. The second mine, the Saxman Coal Mine, was flooded, and the water quickly spread into the Quecreek Mine as well. Half of the miners escaped easily, but nine others were cut off by the rising flood.

After several days of drilling, all nine men were safely rescued on July 28, 2002, after five days underground. The men were suffering from starvation and exposure, but all of them were airlifted to hospitals, where they all made full recoveries, although most of them sought non-mine related employment afterwards.

February 12, 2002 — Yucca Mountain is approved as a nuclear waste depository

The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository is exactly what it sounds like: a facility located inside Yucca Mountain, Nevada. It was exhaustively researched as a potential facility throughout the eighties and nineties, and finally given the go ahead in 2002. It was intended that it be a safe place to store radioactive materials for up to a million years (the longest anticipated time for the materials in question to remain radioactive).

Although construction has commenced, there have been numerous delays, and the Obama administration repeatedly cut the funds available for the project, and no forward progress has been made on it since 2011 – although a considerable amount of legal wrangling back and forth between various governments and agencies has taken place, with multiple attempts to get funding through various state and federal houses, court hearings and injunctions. Whether the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository will ever actually be ready to store nuclear waste remains unclear.

February 1, 2002 — The Patriot Act takes effect in the USA

The PATRIOT Act (in full: the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) doesn’t just mark the zenith of Congress’ love affair with torturous acronyms. It also marks the point where, in the name of protecting the freedoms of American citizens, Congress (with the enthusiastic collaboration of the executive branch) deemed in necessary to restrict, abrogate and even destroy those self-same freedoms.

Among other things, it introduced a sweeping new surveillance regime (including controversial provisions such as library record data mining and so-called “roving” wiretaps), increased the punishments for terrorism, provided for compensation for the families of people killed by terrorists, and beefed up both border security and the investigation of money laundering. In short, it was a mixed bag of things, some of which had a fairly tangential relationship to terrorism. Supporters of the Act (and it would cost a politician their career not to be one) said it was a reasonable and logical step to fight terrorism; opponents decried its attack on civil liberties and constitutional rights.