16 in 2016: The people, places and moments that shaped a shocking election

The 2016 presidential campaign began, in the minds of many of its participants, on Inauguration Day 2013. It got officially underway in November 2014 with the formation of an exploratory committee by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. It involved 22 debates, not counting the “kiddie tables” for the second-tier Republican candidates, and not one but two Super Tuesdays (March 1 and 15). It wound its way through Laredo, Texas, Mexico City, and Aberdeen, Scotland, as well as every hamlet and crossroads in Iowa and New Hampshire. It drew in some two dozen major-party candidates, including both Cuban-American U.S. senators, an Indian-American governor of a Deep South state, an African-American surgeon, a Jewish socialist from Vermont and the brother and wife of former presidents, not to mention a certain billionaire businessman and reality TV star. And it enlisted countless ordinary citizens who were thrust onto the national stage — literally, at the two national conventions — to play supporting roles in the ongoing melodrama of American democracy.

Click buttons below to see the people, places and moments that shaped a shocking election in 2016.

It was a campaign in which one candidate narrowly escaped charges of mishandling of classified documents and the other faces numerous allegations of sexual assault and a class-action fraud lawsuit over his unaccredited “university.” It was marked by credible charges of interference by a foreign power, by one nominee threatening to put the other in jail if he won, by preemptive charges of vote fraud and unprecedented hints that one side might refuse to accept a losing result.

So much has happened in the course of this campaign that the various gaffes, scandals, eruptions, meltdowns, staff shakeups, feuds, endorsements and disavowals run together. Memory dissolves into a jumble of tweets, memes and spin; the day after the election will feel like awakening from a nightmare of being trapped in an elevator for 18 months with Rudy Giuliani and Howard Dean.

And so before the dream fades and we have to ask ourselves, Did that really happen? The argument about the hands? Picking a fight with the pope? The “basket of deplorables”? — Yahoo News presents this list of essential memories from the 2016 campaign: 16 places where the battle for the White House was fought; 16 moments on which the outcome hinged; 16 ordinary people swept up by events and given a role in shaping the national destiny. Exclusive interviews by members of the Yahoo News team help flesh out some of their stories.

Of course, any list like this is arbitrary, but our choices are intended to go beyond the inside-the-war-room accounts that will be written in the months, and years, to come. The maneuvers and tactics of national political campaigns are fascinating, and we will continue to bring those to our readers as well. But we kept in mind that the fate of the country, indeed the world, is at stake when the United States chooses a president. This campaign took place in the shadow of awful and momentous events: domestic terror attacks; police shootings of unarmed black men under disputed circumstances, and deadly attacks on police in retaliation; another in a series of warmest-ever years, sending a loud danger signal about a climate that is changing faster than we can handle.

Although this package isn’t really about policy, it was prepared in full awareness of the critical issues facing the nation — its relationship to immigrants and the world of Islam, its increasingly tense rivalry with Russia and with China, restoring trust between minority communities and the authorities. But what it is about, mostly, is the story of how a campaign plays out across the United States, all 3.8 million square miles of it, the 320 million people who go about their lives and now and then find themselves crossing paths with history. – By Jerry Adler