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1997 Time Capsule

Readers Choose Memorable Events and Trends of the Past Year

On Diana, Princess of Wales

'She truly had everything except what she craved most: peace, love, and happiness. Unfortunately, she never knew how much she was loved - not for her beauty, clothes, or connections. We loved her because she was kind, compassionate, and understanding. For some unknown reason, she was able to give others what she had never received.'

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- East Jewett, N.Y.

'The death of Diana was not just the death of a person, but of a dream: There are no fairy-tale princes.'

- Online reader

On the environment

'As stewards of the earth, we are failing. Thousands of mostly unknown species reportedly vanish every year. I feel this, and it makes me intensely sad.'

- Seattle

On NATO expansion

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'NATO expansion is important because it eliminates a lot of excess war-thinking baggage that aging leaders have used to justify ridiculous expenditures on defense.'

- Online reader

On cloning

'Within the next 25 years we will have our first human clone. This act will have profound effects far beyond the medical issues involved. It will reverberate in the religious community.'

- Online reader

On Mother Teresa

The death of Mother Teresa was the most important because 'nothing on this earth is more important than devoting oneself to the love of God and all humans. Mother Teresa demonstrated this....'

- Beaver Island, Mich.

On Asian markets' collapse

'Asian market instabilities will lead to their greater dependence on international support, which will open these countries to greater Western influence. This will accelerate massive consumerism and exploitation of natural resources.'

- Portland, Ore.

. . . And for Good Measure,

Topics Readers Said They Personally Cared About Most

Death of Diana, Princess of Wales

Growing interest in spirituality

Mars Pathfinder mission

Sheep cloned in Scotland

Global-warming trend

Sampling of Objects Readers Would Pack In Time Capsule

Model of the Mars Rover

Sample of European currencies

Mother Teresa's shawl

Compact disc of Elton John's tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana's speech on land mines

Grain of rice from N. Korea

Holy Bible and religious literature from many faiths

Copy of 900-page IRS tax code

Last British flag hauled down in Hong Kong

Videotape of "Ellen," the "coming out" episode

Crushed cigarette pack

Model of Theodore Kaczynski's cabin

Jersey from Women's National Basketball Association

Barbie doll (before her makeover)

Sing and Snore Ernie

"Tamagotch" virtual pet

Course catalogs from major universities

List of people 100 years or older

Baseball pitcher Pedro Martinez's $75 million contract

Green Bay Packers cheesehead

Wool from the cloned sheep

Diary of a Mir crew member

Teamster's picket sign

On women's issues

'I personally have rejoiced in Madeleine Albright's experiences as secretary of state. The secretary's grace and guts have shown the world what American women have known all along - feminine can be powerful without being overpowering.'

- Online reader

On spirituality

'The growing interest in spirituality seems unprecedented. Never before have so many people been aware of how bad problems are worldwide. They want new answers. They feel they have been deprived by the media's lack of attention to religious subjects, except as objects of ridicule.'

- Laguna Hills, Calif.

'The growing interest in spirituality drives all the rest.'

- Fort Worth, Texas

On economic matters

'I would place a copy of [baseball pitcher] Pedro Martinez's $75-million contract in the capsule.... Business people are willing to pay a king's ransom to someone for playing a game, while the members of society on whom we depend in a crisis (nurses, law enforcement, utility workers, etc.) struggle to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.'

- Pasadena, Calif.

'The UPS strike meant the most to me personally. It was nice to see the average wage earner win for once.'

- Online reader

'I chose the US stock market because my dad is part of the stock market so he would make me read about it. Anyway, I'm interested in it. It's strange to think that someone could buy stock at, let's say, $100, and not be able to sell it for anything.'

- Student in Greenwich, Conn.

Earlier this month, we published a questionnaire asking readers to tell us what they thought were the important stories and trends of 1997. More than 600 people responded, offering a glimpse into their concerns and interests.

Readers relished the assignment and sent us thoughtful comments, a selection of which are included here. We learned that our readers care a great deal about the environment; they were deeply moved by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales; and they worry most about the implications of cloning, which began with Dolly the sheep in Scotland.

The tone of the responses varied from optimistic to pessimistic about the future, with many people citing "growth in spirituality" as the trend that will have the greatest impact in 25 years. Some readers were dismayed by what they perceive as a lack of ethics in government, particularly in the White House.

People wrote most hopefully about space exploration and the Mars Pathfinder mission, viewing the heavens as the next frontier, not the last. (A few cynics warned that Earth's residents may be forced to colonize space if the global environment does not improve.)

Some readers took us to task for omitting several trends from our list: low unemployment in the US; the rise in numbers of HIV-infected people in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe; and the widening gap between rich and poor in developed nations.

Judging from the results, our readers cover the political spectrum and are united by a strong interest in international affairs. A large number of people chose China as the country to watch, both as a world and economic power. They pointed to the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule as a test of China's intentions and future direction.

High on the lists of students who responded were issues of suicide prevention, trying juveniles as adults, spirituality, and the environment. Sports, especially women's pro basketball and the Tiger Woods phenomenon, also featured prominently.

The students represented Whitby School in Greenwich, Conn.; Beaver Island Lighthouse School in Beaver Island, Mich.; Principia Upper School in St. Louis; Rocky River High School in Rocky River, Ohio; Beatty High School in Beatty, Nev.; Potomac School in McLean, Va.; and Montesano Junior-Senior High School in Montesano, Wash.

Our thanks to everyone who responded.

- April Austin, staff

On religious freedom

'The global challenge to religious freedom in most important, because this freedom is what ensures the vitality of a society, helps it recover from tragedies, and provides us with ways to acknowledge a higher power. Without these, we wither.'

- Online reader

On drop in crime rate

'The falling US crime rate proves, regardless of the overdrama-tization of crime by many news organizations, that we really desire, and believe we can, improve as a people.'

- Sanibel, Fla.

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