Morbid curiosity is a part of human nature that most of us just can’t help. Maybe the reason we’re all drawn to tragedy has something to do with natural human grapplings with mortality.
For some, reading about death is depressing. For others, facing their mortality through such stories is purely terrifying. Despite that, it’s nearly impossible to stop reading stories about fatal tragedy…which is exactly what the following 25 photos deal with.
Each photo tells the story of someone’s journey to the end — a journey that we’ll all have to take one day. In some, you can see a knowledge of the end in their eyes. In others, they’re blissfully ignorant of the fate awaiting them.
All of them are tragic, and maybe just a little bit beautiful…
1. The mayor of St. Louis sits alongside other politicians before a fatal test flight on a military glider in 1943.
2. Mayinga N’Seka, a nurse during the first outbreak of Ebola in 1976, with two of her colleagues just a few days before she succumbed to the virus.
3. Concorde Flight 4590 as it caught fire during takeoff.
4. Actor Paul Walker getting into the car that would crash and kill him later that day.
5. Soviet guerrillas executing a traitor behind German lines in 1944.
6. Johnny Cash’s final performance.
7. William “Dave” Sanders was a teacher at Columbine High School. He warned students in the cafeteria that a shooting was happening, saving hundreds of lives.
8. Final image of Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) Flight 182 that collided with another aircraft over San Diego in 1978. All 139 passengers perished.
9. Ian Curtis, singer for ’70s rock band Joy Division, posing with his infant daughter just five days before he took his own life in 1980.
10. The last picture of the Titanic afloat.
11. A musician noticing the start of a fire that would kill 100 people at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island on Feb. 20, 2003.
12. Rapper Notorious B.I.G. leaving a party minutes before he was killed in a drive-by shooting.
13. Joe Kelly with his two sons at Yankee Stadium on September 10, 2001. Kelly was killed the next day during the attacks on the Twin Towers.
14. This picture of a bear was snapped by a hiker in New Jersey. Moments later, the hiker was attacked and killed by the same bear.
15. The 1961 U.S. figure skating team posing for a photo before their flight to the World Figure Skating Championship in Belgium. The plane crashed while attempting to land.
16. Picture recovered from the crash site of Japan Airlines Flight 123, which shows the cabin before tragedy struck. All 509 people aboard were killed.
17. George Mallory and Sandy Irvine at their Mount Everest base camp in 1924. Neither came down from the mountain alive.
18. The Hally family before taking off for their dream vacation aboard the doomed MH17 flight, which was downed over Ukraine shortly thereafter.
19. Margaret Thatcher with her children several months before she died.
20. The moment when a hot air balloon in New Zealand stuck several power lines and caught fire. All 11 people on board were killed.
21. Final image of Robin Williams posing with a fan.
22. The last known photo of Patrick Swayze before he succumbed to cancer.
23. James Dean at a gas station with his Porsche just hours before his fatal car crash in 1955.
24. The final photo of Jim Morrison of The Doors before his death in 1971.
25. Robert Overacker was jet skiing over Niagara Falls to raise awareness for the homeless. He fell to his death when his parachute failed to open.
If you take anything away from these photos, it should be the knowledge that, while death is certain, its timing is not. It’s become a cliche these days, but that doesn’t make it any less true: always live your life to the fullest.
Death will come no matter what you do. If we all end up the same in the end, then it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.